Sleep apnea is often discussed but also often misunderstood. Most properly, sleep apnea is a medical condition in which the patient has difficulty breathing properly while sleeping. This includes periods of shallow breathing, breathing through the mouth, and loud snoring. While in and of itself sleep apnea isn’t especially dangerous, it can lead to several other serious health problems. Let’s take a closer look at sleep apnea and how we can treat it.
There are a number of potential causes and risk factors for sleep apnea. While anyone of any age can have sleep apnea, there are a few things that make it more likely to occur. Some of the risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- being male
- age over 40
- large neck circumference (greater than 16–17 inches)
- enlarged tonsils or tongue
- alcohol use
- tobacco use
- use of sedatives or tranquilizers
- narrow upper jaw
- nasal congestion
- receding chin
- gastroesophageal reflux
- a family history of sleep apnea
- deviated septum
Treatments for sleep apnea used to be difficult, often requiring surgery. Some patients benefit from a continuous pressure breathing apparatus device, which fits over the mouth and nose and feeds pressurized air to the patient overnight. While these options may be right for some patients, there’s another alternative that’s less invasive in the long term: the Seattle Sleep Protocol.
Developed by two dentists in Seattle, this sleep protocol makes use of incremental changes to modify the way the body breathes at night. This allows the health care provider to effectively re-train the patient’s body to sleep and breath more comfortably. There are six steps to the Seattle Sleep Protocol, although most patients do not need to use all of them to get the desired result. Each step makes use of a series of devices and splints to help adjust the way the patient breathes at night.
At BlueWave Dentistry we strive to stay at the forefront of Sleep Apnea Treatment. Our staff is well trained, having worked with some of the biggest names in the field. Dr. Biggerstaff has completed quite a bit of hands-on and instructional training in the Seattle Protocol under the tutelage of Dr. Jeff Rouse, and Dr. Greg Kinzer, the dentist who originally developed the protocol and popularized it. Dr. Biggerstaff worked with them at their primary teaching facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he learned the ins and outs of the protocol and how best to adapt it for each patient’s unique needs.
Again, it’s important to remember that not all patients need to go through all six steps and that the final step is designed to be a flexible way to find a solution for difficult cases. This is a gradual process that proceeds with minimal discomfort to the patient and is a useful alternative to surgery in many cases. If you or someone you know suffers from obstructive airway disease or you would like to learn more about this treatment option, give us a call to arrange a no-obligation consultation with Dr. Biggerstaff. We’ll make an appointment and help you explore your options for treatment.