Dr. Jennifer Cornell, a dentist working at Back 2 Basics Dentistry in Clarksville, Tennessee has been shaping the way that dentists can help patients suffering from sleep apnea.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder that occurs when a person’s tongue or throat muscles create an airway blockage during sleep. This blockage can cause sleeper’s to stop breathing anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. This pause in breathing can happen more than thirty times in an hour. If severe causes go untreated, sleep apnea could lead to atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, chronic heart failure, stroke, and other cardiovascular troubles.
Right now, purportedly 22 million Americans struggle with varying degrees of sleep apnea although an estimated 80% of moderate or severe cases remain undiagnosed.
The reason that such a large percentage of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed is because no blood tests are available to detect it. In addition, it is not a condition that is easily noticed during routine doctor visits. Often times, individuals finally realize they have sleep apnea after someone notices their persistent snoring, which is a major symptom of the disorder.
In order to greatly decreasing the negative effects of sleep apnea, many sufferers wear mouth guards while they sleep. In fact, the FDA has approved approximately 40 different dental devices for the treatment of sleep apnea although they all come in a uniform size.
To maximize the positive effects of dental applications, dentists like Cornell are customizing mouth guards used for sleep apnea to better reposition the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula. By doing so, the dental device can promote normal breathing patterns by creating a greater opening for airway passage.