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Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep.  The term sleep apnea is derived from the Greek etymology meaning “without breath”.  Breathing pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to minutes, and happen as often as 30 times or more per hour.  Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body.

Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process.  People with sleep apnea will partially awake as they struggle to breathe, and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking sensations.  Because people with sleep apnea don’t always completely awake during the episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.

There are two main types of this disorder; central sleep apnea which occurs when the brain fails to send important signals to the breathing muscles, and obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when air cannot flow through the nose or mouth even though the body is still trying to breathe.  Obstructive sleep apnea is far more prevalent and easily treatable by the dentist.

Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea can include severe early morning headaches, sleepiness in the daytime, and insomnia. Fortunately, Dr. Jeff is equipped with the necessary technology and expertise to treat sleep apnea in several different ways.

Reason for treating sleep apnea

It is very important to seek medical attention if sleep apnea is suspected. A sufferer can completely stop breathing numerous times per hour, and this can quickly turn into a deadly situation. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue lying at the back of the patient’s throat collapses into the airway. The tongue then falls towards the back of the throat which tightens the blockage and prevents oxygen from entering the lungs.

The problem worsens when the chest region, diaphragm, and abdomen fight for air. The efforts they make to obtain vital oxygen only cause a further tightening of the blockage. The patient must arouse from deep sleep to tense the tongue and remove the soft tissue from the airway.

Because sleep apnea causes carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket in the blood and oxygen levels to decrease, the heart has to pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Sleep apnea patients can technically “die” many times each night. Sleep apnea has been linked to a series of serious heart-related conditions, and should be investigated by a dentist at the earliest opportunity.

At Dahm Dental, we use the following appliances:   

 Narval SomnoDent Oasys
 TAP 3 Elite


The Narval is the first and only CAD/CAM mandibular repositioning device on the market, ensuring precise fit and comfortable retention. Narval is metal free, flexible, and light.


The SomnoDent® is a comfortable and incrementally adjustable oral appliance that permits normal mouth opening and closing. It can be customized to suit individual needs. Both the Acryclic and Flex models are available.


 The Oasys is the only FDA-cleared appliance that works as both a mandibular repositioner and a nasal dilator. It treats both the nasal and pharyngeal conditions that lead to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

The TAP® 3 Elite is the latest appliance in the TAP Family. The TAP 3 Elite feature smaller hardware than previous TAP appliances, which provides more room for the tongue and allows the lips to close.


What does sleep apnea treatment involve?

Initially, Dr. Jeff will want to conduct tests in order to investigate, diagnose, and pinpoint a suitable treatment. He can offer many different treatment options which depend largely on the exact diagnosis and the health of the patient. Dr. Jeff may advise the patient to halt some habits that aggravate sleep apnea such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and tranquilizer use.  Dahm Dental can help manage your sleep apnea/snoring with several options:

  1. The Therapeutica pillow provides proper neck support while sleeping on your back, as well as your side.  Most snorers find their snoring decreases with side sleeping, and the Therapeutica pillow offers you both back and side sleeping support.
  2. Dahm Dental can also fit you with a variety of oral appliances for the management of sleep apnea.  These appliances are like bite guards, which fit both your upper and lower teeth, and can be adjusted to position the jaw to open your airway and help prevent or decrease your sleep apnea.  These can also be used with CPAP (forced breathing machines) appliances.  Oral appliances are FDA approved for the treatment of mild to moderate sleep apnea, and some medical insurance plans have benefits for these appliances.  Dahm Dental will help you seek prior approval for your oral appliance and file your claim with your medical insurance.  
  3. There are surgical procedures that can be helpful but they cause permanent changes to the airway.  Many surgeries have proven to be effective for approximately 12 months with progressive relapse following 12 months.  Your sleep physician can help in determining if a surgical procedure will be effective for your sleep apnea.

If you feel you may benefit from sleep apnea treatment, contact Dahm Dental today.


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