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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, the dentist 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 the dentist at the earliest opportunity.

What does sleep apnea treatment involve?

Initially, the dentist will want to conduct tests in order to investigate, diagnose, and pinpoint a suitable treatment. The dentist can offer many different treatment options which depend largely on the exact diagnosis and the health of the patient. The dentist may advise the patient to halt some habits that aggravate sleep apnea such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and tranquilizer use.

Sleeping masks were traditionally used to keep the patient’s airways open while they slept, but nowadays there are some less intrusive options. Dental devices that gently tease the lower jaw forward are very effective in preventing the tongue from blocking the main air passage. These dental devices are gentle, easy to wear, and often help patients avoid unwanted surgeries.

A more permanent solution is to have surgery that sections the lower jaw and helps pull the bone holding the tongue forward slightly. This surgery has an impressive success rate and is simple for the dentist or oral surgeon to perform. The dentist needs to formally make a diagnosis of each individual case before recommending the best course of action.

If you feel you may benefit from sleep apnea treatment, contact our practice today.

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Testimonials

“We feel like you are all part of our family! I hope we can remain with you for a very long time. Thanks for helping our children understand about their dental health”

Michelle B.

“Have you heard of the movie, “Encino Man?” Well, Dr. Marilyn Calvo is the “Encino Woman!” I have been going to Dr. Calvo for four years now, and I wouldn’t consider going anywhere else. Her whole office radiates such professionalism, warmth, and friendliness. She is so very thorough that even the tiniest cavity can’t get past her. She is truly and artist. So, if you are wise, head out west on Ventura Blvd. to Dr. Marilyn Calvo, the very BEST!”

Bill A.

“Dr. Calvo is not just the most amazing dentist I have ever known, but she is the most amazing down to earth person. I was lucky to discover Dr. Calvo through a friend who highly recommended her. I got veneers done with her and they look AMAZING!! Everyone is jealous of how great my smile is. When I first went in to see her I was blown away with how much attention she paid to me. She always makes sure to spend time with her patients’ one on one and explain exactly what is going on to make sure you are aware.”


“In my past, I went to dentists who never explained anything and just did the routine cleaning without emotion and passion. Dr. Calvo has so much passion and knowledge for the services she provides. She is definitely a dentist who genuinely cares and improves the lives of people around her. I am so grateful to have her. The staff that works with Dr. Calvo are the nicest people I have ever known. I look forward to going to the dentist for the first time in my life.”

Jen C.

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