The Dental Connection to Sleep Apnea

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The Dental Connection to Sleep Apnea
Posted on 30. Jun, 2010 by Aurora Orthodontics & TMJ in Blog

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can cause more than just loud snoring that keeps you and your spouse from getting a good night’s sleep. It can cause heart stress leading to heart attacks, strokes and even death. So for those who suffer from OSA, getting proper treatment is critical.

But before we can understand how to treat it, we first have to understand what OSA is and why it occurs. When someone sleeps on their back, the tongue rests too far back in the throat area. This can cause a collapse of the person’s airway, which leads to the choking (apnea) response. This restriction results in a lack of oxygen to the brain and usually causes the person to either wake up briefly or shift so that the blockage is relieved and air can again flow. In an extreme case the person can literally choke to death in their sleep.

OSA starts as a mild obstruction and generally is accompanied by snoring. If left unattended, the obstruction can progress into a moderate or even severe problem. The most common treatment is the use of a CPAP machine, which forces air into the lungs by pushing it past the obstruction. Although a lifesaver for many, some find the machine too obtrusive. In mild to moderate cases, a dental appliance can be effective. It pulls the lower jaw forward while sleeping, relieving the airway obstruction, which relieves the choking and snoring. It is usually worn for life.

For many years, I’ve had success with another approach, which can provide a permanent solution to OSA without the use of machines or appliances. It is called Dentofacial Orthopedics.

Two decades ago, I wrote an article outlining how the position of the teeth can cause the lower jaw to retrude, or go back too far when closing. This causes problems with the jaw joints (TMJ), which leads to painful headaches and other symptoms of the jaws, eyes and ears. Retrusion of the lower jaw causes the head to move forward, which leads to strain in the neck. It can cause a degeneration of the normal curvature of the neck and a restricted ability to do normal movements. Retrusion can also result in Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

We can prevent these kinds of chain reactions from happening with a proper evaluation that includes traditional orthodontic exams and a thorough evaluation of the jaw joints (TMJ’s), the ability to properly breath through the nose, and even a person’s posture. For example, a person with a developing overbite and small upper jaw will be more likely to develop the type of problems we’ve described.

The good news is we can avoid these problems by enlarging the constricted upper jaw and freeing up the lower jaw to come forward into the ideal position. And we do not have to remove permanent teeth to accomplish this.

Dentofacial Orthopedics, combined with an oral appliance, can permanently move the lower jaw forward to relieve OSA. It can also widen the upper jaw, improving nasal airflow. Then we can use orthodontics (braces) to move the teeth into the right position, relieving overcrowding and correcting bite problems.

I’ve successfully treated thousands of patients using this approach. It frees them from chronic headaches and neck pain, and allows them to sleep through the night for the first time in years. No machines, no lifetime of oral appliances. Just welcome relief for you and your spouse.

For more information on dentofacial orthodontics or sleep apnea, contact Dr. Kent Lauson at Aurora Orthodontics & TMJ in the Southlands Shopping Center, 24301 E Orchard Road, Aurora, Co 80016; 303-690-0100

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Denver Orthodontist