How Orthodontic Treatments Help Adults with Sleep Apnoea

Woman suffering from sleep apnoea.

Sleep is one of our primary needs as humans. A good night’s sleep is an important part of achieving a healthy lifestyle. Inadequate sleep or not reaching REM can impact your physical and even mental health negatively. Some of the effects include poor concentration and thinking. You will also notice that you’re in a bad mood.

There are many reasons why you do not get enough sleep at night. It could be due to stress, drinking or eating too close to bedtime, and even an uncomfortable mattress. However, many people do not consider their breathing. Being able to breathe properly is one of the keys to a restful sleep. If someone tells you that you snore while you sleep, it may be any of these factors:

  • Obesity
  • Congestion
  • Allergies
  • Family health history

However, snoring may also be due to a sleep order called sleep apnoea.


Sleep Apnoea Facts

What is sleep apnoea, and how do you know you have this sleep disorder? Sleep apnoea occurs when you pause taking breaths while you sleep. Sometimes, it manifests as periods of shallow breathing. Because it is a disorder, it happens more often than normal. A study showed that one in 10 Australians have sleep apnoea.

Breathing pauses typically last for a few seconds. However, it is not uncommon for other people to stop breathing for a few minutes. Often, those who stop breathing will do so several times each night. It will be followed by loud snoring, which can affect other people, such as a spouse, close to the person with sleep apnoea.

So, then this takes us to the next subject. What are the symptoms to watch out for? Since you’re sleeping, it’s usually impossible to find out if you stop breathing. Therefore, the best way to find out is to ask the person who sleeps in the same bed as you. If they have ever complained about you snoring loudly at night, which can usually disrupt their sleep, you probably have sleep apnoea.

Snoring is not unusual, though. Most people snore, so it does not necessarily mean we’re all suffering from a sleep disorder. In fact, about 775,000 Australians are said to snore regularly. The problem with sleep apnoea is that it often comes with underlying health issues, which are generally considered its side effects. These include:

  • Heart attacks
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • Strokes

People with sleep apnoea and heart issues will find that the combination can be deadly. The disorder becomes more troublesome for them since the side effects are often amplified. For example, sleep apnoea sufferers will feel tired in the morning. Meanwhile, people with the disorder and heart problems may not be able to function the next day because they feel so exhausted. This occurs even if the person gets adequate sleep.

As it progresses, sleep apnoea reduces the quality of sleep. It is a result of repeated interruptions, which later becomes more frequent and damaging. Another noticeable effect is the partner can also suffer from insomnia or related symptoms.

There are three main classifications of sleep apnoea, which are:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea: This is the most common and occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax more than usual. When this phenomenon happens, the airways narrow, which causes the person to find breathing more difficult. The change in airways will signal the brain to use the nose for breathing. This transition hugely affects the person’s sleep pattern and can take place several times in an hour.
  2. Central Sleep Apnoea: Although less common, it still affects a number of the population. The process is similar to obstructive sleep apnoea. However, instead of the brain using the nose, it fails to keep the muscles going. As a result, the breathing stops immediately. The person does not put in the effort to breathe. Although it sounds pretty scary, it only happens for a very short time. However, it does affect a person’s wellbeing.
  3. Complex Sleep Apnoea: Also known as mixed sleep apnoea, this type of sleep disorder combines the other classifications above.

Aside from snoring, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Choking or gasping for breath
  • Frequently waking up in the middle of the night
  • Teeth grinding
  • Trouble falling asleep, especially back to sleep after waking up
  • Tiredness in the morning
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings

The best way to confirm that you have this sleep disorder is to talk to a medical professional.

Husband with sleep apnoea.


Orthodontic Issues That Cause Sleep Apnoea

Muscle issues can be a factor in sleep apnoea. However, your mouth and teeth can also play a vital role in this sleep disorder. If you have sleep apnoea, you probably have an orthodontic problem, such as crooked teeth or a more defined issue, such as jaw misalignment. If you have any of these oral issues, you should certainly consult with an orthodontist.

An orthodontist can easily recognise the signs of wear on your teeth, which is common in people who grind their teeth (also known as bruxism). Bite issues can cause the worsening of sleep apnoea symptoms. That’s because people with an underbite, overbite or open bite are at a bigger risk. These bite problems mean that the teeth are not aligned correctly, which can also have an effect on the jaw shape, depending on the bite type.

For example, people with an underbite have their lower teeth resting in front of their upper teeth. This can lead to earaches, headaches, and jaw pain. If you have an underbite, you probably find it difficult to chew. It can affect the appearance and function of the jaw, which can get worse over time.


How Orthodontics Help Treat Sleep Apnoea in Adults

An orthodontist will check your teeth, mouth, jaw. Based on the assessment, this professional can quickly figure out the best treatment for your dental issue. A device may be fitted to correct your bite, for example. Traditional braces and clear aligners are the most common orthodontic treatments used to fix misaligned or crooked teeth. Minor to moderate malocclusions can be treated easily. If you have severe malocclusion, traditional braces are often the most suitable route to take.

The orthodontic appliances mentioned will move teeth so that they align correctly. When the treatment is complete, you will find speaking and chewing more comfortable. Traditional braces use wires and bands, while clear aligners use a set of plastic trays.

Another option is to use a mandibular advancement splint. It is a customised type of brace. Unlike traditional braces, the splint is only worn while the person with the disorder sleeps. This appliance can stop any movement of the lower jaw, which usually happens when sleep apnoea attacks. The lower jaw stays in place instead of moving downward and upward. This treatment is also effective in widening the airway, which can successfully stop other obstructive sleep apnoea symptoms.

Adults are not the only ones who can have sleep apnoea. If your child has this sleep disorder, be sure to talk to his or her orthodontist to find out the best course of treatment. Typically, a rapid palate expander is used in children with an obstructive sleep disorder. This appliance is fixed to the upper molars of the child using cemented bands or a bonding method. The aim of this treatment is to widen the space in the upper jaw, which is a common problem in children with sleep apnoea.

Woman with dental braces, sleeping.


Some Things to Note

Orthodontic treatments can surely help many people with sleep apnoea. Some Australians don’t have their misaligned teeth fixed, which can lead to more serious health issues. Corrective treatments can give you respite from inadequate sleep and other symptoms of the sleep disorder. Additionally, braces and aligners can boost your confidence once the treatment is complete. You will love smiling, talking, and even chewing food.

Another benefit of orthodontic treatments is that they can help improve your oral hygiene. You also get to avoid more severe problems, such as temporomandibular jaw disorders. TMJ can lead to poor quality of life, especially with all the aches that you could experience in your jaw. The pain can even extend to your head, ears, neck, and shoulders.

Considering all the benefits above, it’s important to remember that orthodontic treatments are not the cure for sleep apnoea. It all depends on the cause of the disorder. For example, if the person is obese, a behavioural intervention is the best treatment for sleep apnoea. The patient may be advised to undergo therapy that helps reduce weight to improve symptoms. Smokers with sleep apnoea should stop with their bad habits, not only for the sleep disorder but also for their general health.

Finally, an orthodontist cannot treat your obstructive sleep apnoea unless another medical professional diagnoses you with it. But although this is the case, an orthodontist can be the first person to discover and recognise that you are showing symptoms of the sleep disorder. That’s why regular visits to your oral health practitioner are so crucial.

Oasis Orthodontics is well positioned in performing assessments that can determine whether or not you have sleep apnoea, particularly obstructive sleep apnoea. You may be referred to a physician for a diagnostic evaluation. Once confirmed that you have the disorder, your orthodontist can work together with other health professionals to help you in managing the disease.

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Kingsley Orthodontics is now called Oasis Orthodontics. We are now operating in two locations: Clarkson and Kingsley.