As part of our dental exam, we take a 3D CAT Scan of the head. While helpful in showing dental structures, sinuses, infections, and other oral information, this scan is also a powerful tool for three-dimensionally analyzing the airway to show airway restriction and reduced airway volume. A restricted airway may cause Sleep Disordered Breathing which causes low oxygen levels, sleep apnea, and more. Airway problems can have a profound impact on your health. Sleep apnea patients have a higher incidence of cardiac events, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, dementia and much more.
When I see a restricted airway or a potential airway problem on a patient’s 3D scan, I often advise a Sleep Study. Sleep studies are typically done at a Sleep Center where you will sleep while being monitored for snoring, heart rate, brain activity, eye movement, body movements, etc. For those that prefer to sleep at home, we offer the Apnea Risk Evaluation System or ARES™ Home Sleep Test by the SleepMed (SM) company. The SleepMed company is a leader in sleep health and science. Their SM device allows you to do a sleep study from the comfort of your home. The relatively small unit sits on the forehead, and along with a nasal cannula, collects information while you sleep. (View Patient Instruction Video)
The SM device monitors snoring and its loudness, sleep positions, the number of apnea and hypopnea events as well as oxygen levels. This information gathered while you sleep, along with a questionnaire that you fill out, is sent to SleepMed. A certified sleep physician analyzes the computer data from your sleep study. A report is then generated and sent to our office. This report will indicate if you have a problem and its severity.
Should your sleep study indicate a problem, there are various avenues of treatment. CPAP machines, indicated for severe sleep apnea, are often the best initial course of treatment. These machines force oxygen into your airway. Unfortunately, the majority of people do not like sleeping with a facial mask, and long-term compliance is low. Another avenue of treatment is to wear a dental sleep appliance. These dental appliances consist of a mold that goes over your upper and lower teeth connected by a bar which brings your lower jaw forward. Bringing your lower jaw forward allows your tongue to come forward. Most of the time, the sleep disordered breathing is due to the tongue sitting back in one’s airway. Another course of treatment is to orthopedically/orthodontically reposition one’s upper and lower jaws to give the tongue enough room so that it is not resting in the airway. Naturally, each case must be individually evaluated for the best course of treatment.
Restricted Airway Volume Normal Airway Volume
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