Obstructive sleep apnea, commonly referred to as sleep apnea, is a condition that affects almost 18 million Americans. Surprisingly, only 10% are ever diagnosed with it. Children also suffer from numerous sleep disorders and are wrongly diagnosed by professionals. This means that they spend a large amount of their lives being treated for the wrong disorder with little improvements. Sleep apnea is a serious complication that hinders the ability of a person to obtain a peaceful sleep but remains largely untreated.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes patients to stop breathing during their sleep. The obstructions in normal breathing can cause a loss in supply of oxygen to vital organs in the body. This can occur repeatedly throughout the night. In some cases, this number has been reported to be as high as hundreds of times. There are several hindrances in the diagnosis of this condition which is why the rates are alarmingly low. Two types of apneas have so far been identified. These include:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: The more common among the two types is obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat suddenly collapses during sleep. This sudden blockage of the airway causes restlessness at night as well as other related physical and mental disorders.
  • Central sleep apnea: Unlike the previous type, this is just an inability of the brain to send the relevant signals to the muscles in the respiratory system. It is relatively uncommon and does not cause a complete blockage of the breathing tract.

How Oral Care Professionals Are Linked to Sleep Disorders?

Sleep apnea is often listed on orthodontic clinic websites and people are confused about how these two fields are related. Some people also get surprised when the dentist asks them about their sleep. The fact of the matter is that dentists can be one of the first people to identify the signs of sleep apnea and lead to its diagnosis. People who visit their dentist regularly are much more likely to find out if they have this condition as compared to those who don’t.

Snoring and tooth grinding are one of the most visible signs of sleep apnea and can be detected by a dentist. Worn-out tooth surfaces coupled with complains of restless nights can give clear indications that something might be afoot. The dentist can then request additional screening for the patient, which can ultimately lead to successful diagnosis of the issue. Diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea is crucial. If ignored, it can shave off 10 years on average from a person’s life. The shortage of breath during sleep can also lead to severe mental disorders.


While the exact cause of sleep apnea is yet to be identified, there are a number of factors that put a person at a higher risk of suffering from the disorder. It is more common in males. Being overweight and above the age of 40 are also risk-increasing factors. Family history of the disease can also result in patients suffering from sleep apnea. Tonsils or nasal obstructions like sinuses have also been attributed to causing the disorder.


There are a variety of treatment options that are available to patients suffering from sleep apnea. These can vary, depending on the condition and severity of the obstruction in the person. Some can find relief by making lifestyle changes, like losing weight and eating healthy, while others require minor corrective measures like changing sleeping positions or wearing mouth guards.

However, for some Huntsville family dentistry patients, things can be more complicated. They might have to go through CPAP therapy or even corrective surgery to help remove the obstructions that hinder their sleep.