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Kallen K. Hull DMD, PC
Creating Beautiful Smiles

Sleep Apnea

Magazines and TV commercials always seem to depict a refreshed individual waking up to the sound of their alarm clock, looking wide-eyed and ready to start their day. What? You mean that doesn’t sound like your typical morning?  Many of us wake up feeling tired from time to time, and while is it is normal to feel tired upon waking on occasion, it is not normal to wake up feeling completely exhausted on a regular basis. This could be an indication that there may be undiagnosed, underlying issues at hand.  For most of us, night time should be a time of rest. If you snore, chances are you aren’t getting that deep sleep you need to wake up refreshed - and members of your household may not be getting any sleep, either!

Snoring can be an annoyance but also can be a warning sign of something more serious, such as Chronic Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from seconds to minutes.  In some cases an individual with sleep apnea may wake up several times during the night gasping for air but may not remember doing so once they fully wake up in the morning - often times these episodes are reported by a spouse or partner who witnessed the episodes. Without that much-needed deep sleep, the individual will often experience daytime drowsiness. Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed in a sleep clinic.

Medical Treatment

Treatment for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea may involve behavior therapy (avoiding alcohol, weight loss), medication which reduces blood PH and encourages respiration, or a CPAP machine (which keeps the airway open with positive air flow into the throat). Surgery may be indicated as a second line of treatment for those who reject or are not helped by CPAP treatment, but that is typically after all other options have been exhausted.

Dental Treatment

With a prescription** from a physician, your general dentist can fabricate an oral appliance (the prescription is needed because sleep apnea is a medical condition).  The appliance, a custom-made mouth piece, shifts the lower jaw forward, opens the bite and opens the airway.   This can be a successful treatment for mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea.  (**if the patient is only concerned about treatment for snoring, a dentist can be consulted without a prescription).

Bruxism (teeth grinding) and the association with Sleep Apnea

Bruxism is the term used to describe excessive force on teeth due to grinding or clenching. This generally occurs during sleep but can occur during the day and more so during periods of stress.  Patients often wake up with headaches, jaw/facial pain or even earaches. So how are Sleep Apnea and Bruxism related? Current research is helping dentists link these two conditions.

What we already know about Bruxism is that it can be brought on by stress and anxiety, but it is also known that patients with Sleep Apnea often have anxiety and even depression from lack of sleep, which in turn escalates the grinding at night. In addition, dentists are now learning that airway dysfunction may not only play a key role in these conditions, but may also contribute to the development and/or presence of a variety of other dental conditions as well. 

 As a SPEAR study club faculty member, Dr. Hull has participated in many continuing education courses on Sleep Apnea and associated treatments.  

(Video courtesy of and posted with permission by Spear Education)

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