Understanding Sleep Apnea

It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80% of the cases for moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.


What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder occurring in children and adults in which breathing is repeatedly, partially, or completely blocked during sleep. This condition is due to narrowing or blocking of the upper airway during sleep and results in poor, non-restorative sleep.

Sleep apnea leads to poor quality sleep in all affected people, but daytime symptoms can vary between children and adults. While adults are likely to experience daytime sleepiness and fatigue, children are more likely to experience difficulty concentrating and hyperactivity. The physical and mental strain of sleep apnea affects the quality and quantity of life.

Obstructed breathing – The red dot shows where the obstruction is at the back of the throat and base of the tongue.

Think you have Sleep Apnea?

Don’t lose your best days to restless nights. Better health starts with healthy sleep. Take a short sleep risk test to determine your risk.

Sleep Apnea Health Risks

Sleep apnea does more than make you sleepy. Left untreated, it can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and other long-term health risks. Untreated sleep apnea has associated negative impacts on all systems of the body and health, with some more pronounced than others.

Studies show an association between sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and a shortened lifespan. Obesity is common in sleep apnea patients, and obesity significantly increases the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. But not everyone with sleep apnea is obese. Sleep apnea is associated with higher risks of diabetes, independent of obesity, and sleep apnea can increase blood sugar levels.

Weight loss is critical for treating or preventing sleep apnea for people who are overweight or obese. People who accumulate fat in the neck, tongue, and upper belly are especially vulnerable to sleep apnea. This weight reduces the diameter of the throat and pushes against the lungs, contributing to airway collapse during sleep.

Women, in particular, should be careful as they age. Premenopausal women tend to put on weight in the hips and lower body instead of the belly. But with time, weight begins to accumulate in traditionally “male” areas like the stomach leading to a greater chance of sleep apnea.

Travel Friendly OAT, Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Is there a cure for Sleep Apnea?

There are various treatment therapies for obstructive sleep apnea, but they are considered treatments and not a cure.

Considering surgical and other non-invasive therapy options, Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) brings relief to many who suffer from sleep apnea. With Dr. Dexter and the convenience of a screening home sleep test, you can go from diagnosis to a treatment plan without leaving home.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Process

1.  Get Diagnosed

Dr. Dexter will review your Home Sleep Test results and provide Oral Appliance Therapy as diagnosed and prescribed by a board-certified sleep physician.

2.  Start Treatment

Get a custom-fit oral appliance to start sleeping healthier again.

3. Receive Support

Ongoing guidance can optimize therapy and ensure sleep success.

Sleep Apnea FAQ

Who has sleep apnea?

Certain physical traits and clinical features are common in patients with obstructive sleep apnea, but anyone can have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea occurs in about 25% of men and nearly 10% of women, it can affect people of all ages, including babies and children and particularly people over the age of 50 and those who are overweight. Regardless of age, gender or body mass, it can occur across all groups of people.

Does my insurance cover Oral Appliance Therapy?

Although a dentist will be placing your custom oral appliance, oral appliance therapy is generally covered under your medical health insurance plan, not your dental plan. Prior to treatment, you or your dentist may want to contact your health insurance, directly, for an estimate of insurance coverage. Due to variations in medical insurance plans, coverages do vary.

Can I continue to have excessive daytime tiredness?

Sometimes individuals with successful treatment of sleep apnea still experience excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), a chronic condition, and may need help with improving wakefulness. We know this sleep deficit is contributing to worsening co-existing medical conditions and impacts human performance as well as cognitive abilities. For this reason, physicians may prescribe medications, after diagnosing EDS, to improve daytime functioning for those who suffer from this chronic condition.

Can you just treat snoring?

A sleep test is required first to determine if snoring is the primary problem or an associated symptom of a more serious condition, sleep apnea. Snoring, and certain details of snoring, can be a valuable early-warning alarm that sleep apnea is present and treating snoring can remove this warning system. Simply silencing the symptoms may have unfortunate long-term consequences of snore-free sleep apnea. When oral appliances are used to treat primary snoring, it is important to check for sleep apnea on a regular basis afterwards.

Can weight loss cure sleep apnea?

The short answer is no. Weight loss may help reduce sleep apnea symptoms for some people, but only if you have obstructive sleep apnea. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common, making up 84% of sleep apnea diagnosis.

In obstructive sleep apnea, you may stop breathing because air stops flowing to the lungs due to a blockage. For some people, the weight of your neck narrows and blocks the airway during sleep. If that is the case, weight loss could have a positive effect on airway obstructions and airway collapsibility. While there are several sleep apnea treatment options available, there is no predictable cure.

What can I do to decrease my risk for sleep apnea?

Eating right, exercising on a regular basis and committing to behaviors that promotes quality sleep are part of a healthy lifestyle that can help reach a healthy weight, even if it can’t cure your sleep apnea. And reaching a healthy weight may reduce your risk, symptoms and severity of sleep apnea.

Donald R. Dexter, Jr., DMD