Sleep Disorder Breathing (SDB) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) are both very serious problems that are getting considerable attention today These problems are serious and if left untreated; they can lead to serious morbidity and even early, sudden death. These are primarily airway problems. The airway gets constricted and this leads to a lot of problems, the least of which is snoring. The airway can be held open slightly with a simple dental appliance and this will help. It is better than nothing. But, this is a serious problem and it is better to get to the root of the problem and correct the main underlying problems wherever possible. The root causes include allergies, (both food allergies and allergens in the home), pollution, poor posture, excess body fat and alcohol.
Go through the brief questionnaire below and if you answer “Yes” to more than half the questions; we probably should look into the matter further.
- Do you wake up in the morning feeling tired and un-refreshed?
- Do you feel very tired during the day?
- Do you feel tired when you are driving?
- Do you wake up with a dry mouth, nasal congestion, or a headache?
- Do you have trouble falling asleep?
- Do you have trouble staying asleep?
- Do you snore when you sleep?
- Has anyone noticed that you stop breathing sometimes when you are sleeping?
- Are you overweight?
- Do you drink more than three drinks a day?
Sleep disorder breathing is serious and needs to be treated on a few fronts. For the most part you are on your own with this although there are a couple of ways that your dental team can help. Here are a few tips:
- Tonsillitis – Enlarged tonsils tend to block the airway to some degree. This is a dental disease to some degree. It is mainly due to large amounts of bacteria in the mouth. The remedy is excellent oral hygiene. This amounts to thorough brushing and flossing and probably scrapping the tongue as well. (A teaspoon works well for this.) Regular care by your hygienist is also important.
- Allergies – Allergies can cause nasal passages to become blocked to some degree. This is a problem best left to medical specialists who can track down the offending allergens. Some of the more common offenders are cats, dogs, booze and certain foods.
- Oral Appliances – There are many different designs of oral appliances that can help to open the airway. In general, what they do is hold the lower jaw forward. This in turn helps to keep the airway open. These do help in most cases and probably are worth a try. There are several good products available on the internet but the custom made products that are made in dental offices do fit a lot better.
- Excess Belly Fat – In adults especially a large part of the whole breathing problem is excess fat around the abdomen. A large abdomen does not interfere with breathing as long as we sit or stand because gravity pulls the abdomen down and away from the chest and diaphragm. However, when people with large abdomens lay down the fat and abdominal contents are pulled down between the pelvis and the chest cage. The pelvis won’t move so the fat pushes up against the diaphragm making it impossible to breath with your diaphragm. You can still breath by expanding and contracting the chest but each time you inhale the diaphragm is pulled up a little further and eventually you just can’t inhale enough and this leads to an apnea incident. Unfortunately there is no simple solution to this problem. You simply need to lose the belly fat. This is not easy even though there are weigh lose clinics everywhere. It is the author’s belief that low carb diets such as Atkins, Paleo, or Moreno’s 17 Day Diet are more effective at reducing belly fat than simpler low calorie diets. However, what ever works is fine.
- Poor posture – The main problem here is that leaning forward too far over a long period of time leads to the shoulders being rounded forward and the upper spine is also excessively curved. Excess belly fat can also worsen this posture problem. This is a problem that can be corrected with proper exercise. Most good exercise programs will get the job done eventually but a good personal trainer might get right to the point. You might not get good results until the abdominal fat issue is behind you.