Emily Buckley, editor in chief

sleep apneaMore than one billion people suffer from mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea, and as many as one in four go undiagnosed. 

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is caused by either an obstruction of the airway when the muscles in the jaw or throat relax, or when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing, or a combination of those issues.

If not treated, sleep apnea can cause serious medical complications including daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and liver problems. 

“The first choice and gold standard for the treatment of sleep apnea is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine,” Dave Gordon, DDS, of Logan Peak Dental said. “CPAP machines are awesome and are a really good treatment for sleep apnea, but the problem is that an estimated 40% of people who are prescribed a CPAP machine aren’t able to tolerate it, whether because of the mask on their face or the way it dries out the tissue in their nose or mouth, so the machine ends up in a closet not being used.”

Dr. Gordon says an alternative treatment for sleep apnea, for patients who a CPAP machine isn’t working for, is a MAD (Mandibular Advancement Device) made by a dentist. These devices position the jaw forward a little bit while the person sleeps, allowing the airway to be cleared of the tongue or other tissue. 

“Many people who can’t handle a CPAP do much better with a MAD,” Dr. Gordon said.

Dr. Gordon explained that there is a lot of research that suggests one of the main reasons we see sleep apnea at such epidemic proportions in our culture is because we have underdevelopment in our faces. 

In his office, Dr. Gordon offers patients a type of MAD called VIVOS, which addresses the reasons a patient may not be sleeping at night using a sophisticated algorithm to create a step-by-step path to correct craniofacial developmental deficiencies and relieve the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. This is a treatment that can be used nightly for life. 

“Sleep is a very basic human need,” Dr. Gordon said. “I think it is sometimes undervalued. I believe if we considered sleep at the forefront of handling many medical problems, we’d be better off.”

Dr. Gordon explained that sleep apnea should be diagnosed by a medical doctor, but he or other qualified dentists can help guide patients through the process of diagnosis and finding the best treatment for them, whether it is a CPAP machine or a MAD.