Snoring Treatable by Dental Device | Alhambra Dentist

A physician, Dr. Smith (not his real name), mentioned at his dental visit that he snores heavily and that recently his condition has been diagnosed as obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Smith said that he had read that a certain kind of dental device can treat this condition and wanted to know whether he is a suitable candidate.

Sleep apnea occurs where there are episodes of cessation of breathing lasting 10 seconds or longer during sleep. The failure to breath triggers the brain to awaken briefly in order to reinitiate the breathing process. These arousals are so brief that they generally go unremembered. But the results of these frequent interruptions are daytime sleepiness, which may lead to disruption of work and social life. Difficulties with concentration, memory are some of the other symptoms. Severe sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Sleep apnea is estimated to affect about of 10% men between the ages of 30 to 50, but also has been found in both sexes of all ages. The most frequent form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the cessation of breathing is most often caused by excessive relaxation of the muscles at the back of the throat.

Dr. Smith was aware that medical remedies include the use of continuous positive airway pressure (C- PAP) which involves the use of wearing a mask over the nose and mouth. Air from a compressor forces air through the mask to keep the airway open. Surgical procedures involve the excising of excess tissue at the back of the throat, such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids. However, Dr. Smith cannot sleep with the C- PAP mask and does not want surgery. He was interested in the mandibular advancement appliance that has been used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

This dental device consists of two retainer-like plastic covers. One fits over the upper teeth and the other over the lower teeth. These two retainers are joined together by “connectors” which maintain the lower jaw slightly more forward than normal. By advancing the lower jaw (mandible) forward, the diameter of the throat is increased. More importantly, even if the muscles at the back of throat relax, the throat is prevented from collapsing. This forward placement of the mandible can prevent the blocking of breathing found in obstructive sleep apnea.

A mandibular advancement device was made for Dr. Smith. A subsequent polysomnograph (sleep study) confirmed that while Dr. Smith was wearing the oral device, he had no apnea episodes. His “oxygen saturation rate” was back to normal and he felt great. The snoring has greatly diminished to where it is almost unnoticeable to his wife. He has continued to wear this kind of appliances for the past four years.

If you or your spouse suffers from the snoring of the other, there is hope. Visit your dentist. If you also notice that he/she has apnea episodes where breathing stops for 10 seconds or more, please see your physician to rule out sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, be sure you follow your doctors’ instructions as to how to deal with this condition. Ask your physician if a mandibular advancement device could be a consideration.

If you would like more information about obstructive sleep apnea, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Jowl Lines May Be Caused by Grinding Your Teeth (Bruxism) | Alhambra Dentist

There is a muscle that attaches the corners of our mouth to the border of the lower jaw.  It is called the “depressor anguli oris”. It is also called the “triangularis.” Triangularis is a muscle of facial expression. Specifically, it allows us to frown. It stands to reason if we frown a lot, we are likely to over-develop this muscle. The consequence is “jowl lines” that go at an angle from the corners of the mouth to the bottom of the lower jaw.

The bad news is that you don’t have to frown a lot to get jowl lines. You can get jowl lines just from unconsciously clenching and grinding your teeth. You would be doing something a lot of people do unconsciously during sleep, and even during the awake hours. This unconscious habit is called bruxism. According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, the prevalence of bruxism varies from 5 to 20 percent. The wide range is due to reporting something you are not, by definition, aware of. Your dentist can, with some confidence, diagnose you as having bruxism if you have obvious signs of excessive wear on your teeth that cannot be attributed to what you eat and chew. If you are told you have bruxism, don’t fight it. Excessive wear of your teeth is forensic evidence you are unconsciously doing it during the daytime, or you are doing it while you are in certain stages of sleep.

So, what do you do with habit? It needs to be changed. How? Your dentist can make you a specially-designed and calibrated oral appliance that gives you an ideal bite. This ideal bite will lessen the tendency to clench and grind. But to change the habit, you will need to wear this appliance 24 hours per day for at least 6 months, and often as long as two years. While you wear the appliance, you must remember to use it as a “biofeedback appliance” that will train your muscles not to clench and grind. Every time you bite into it, you will be able to tell you are doing so. After a period of time, the muscles will learn not to clench or grind. This is just like training your muscles to golf or play tennis. It takes practice.

The bite appliances are not obtrusive nor obviously visible, especially if your dentist makes it to fit over your lower teeth. The benefits would be that you won’t wear your teeth down and you won’t get “frown” or “jowl” lines in your face.

Seeing the dentist can give you good dental health, as well as save you from facelifts, botox injections or dermal fillers. Don’t forget your regular checkups.

If you would like more information about bruxism, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.