Understanding Sleep Apnea and How Holistic Dentistry Can Support Treatment

Understanding Sleep Apnea and How Holistic Dentistry Can Support Treatment

sleep apnea and treatment

Are you constantly feeling exhausted, even after a full night’s sleep? Do you wake up with a dry mouth, headache, or gasping for air? If so, you may be one of the millions worldwide affected by sleep apnea – a potentially serious sleep disorder that often goes undiagnosed.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is characterised by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses, called apneas, can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur dozens of times per hour. There are three main types:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common form. It is caused by a blocked or collapsed airway during sleep, often due to relaxed throat muscles.
  2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain fails to signal the breathing muscles properly.
  3. Mixed Sleep Apnea: A combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Recognising the Warning Signs

Sleep apnea can manifest through various symptoms, some of which may surprise you. Be on the lookout for:

symptoms of sleep apnea
  • Loud snoring
  • Frequent waking at night to urinate
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Waking with a dry mouth or headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Daytime fatigue and difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes, such as irritability or depression

If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, seeking professional help is crucial. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a world of difference in managing sleep apnea and its potential health risks.

The Health Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Ignoring sleep apnea can have serious consequences. Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of:

Health Risk Description
High blood pressure Increased risk of hypertension
Heart disease Higher likelihood of heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues
Stroke Increased risk of stroke
Diabetes Greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes
Depression Higher risk of mental health issues, including depression

In fact, a study published in the European Respiratory Journal found that severe sleep apnea was associated with a 2.7 times higher risk of developing heart failure.

The Holistic Dentistry Approach to Sleep Apnea

At Sydney Holistic Dental Centre, we take a comprehensive approach to treating sleep apnea, focusing not only on the symptoms but also on the underlying causes of the condition. This method contrasts with traditional treatments that may address only the immediate symptoms using devices like CPAP machines or mandibular advancement devices (MADs).

Underlying Causes and Holistic Interventions

Our holistic dentists aim to identify and treat the root causes of sleep apnea, which often include issues with jaw alignment, tongue positioning, and overall oral health. For instance, retrognathia (poor jaw alignment) and high tongue positioning can obstruct the airway during sleep. We may use treatments like mandibular advancement devices to reposition the jaw and alleviate these obstructions.

Comprehensive Treatment Options

In addition to addressing the underlying causes, we employ a variety of other treatment modalities to address sleep apnea, including:

  1. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy: This therapy focuses on the mouth and face muscles, aiming to improve their tone and function, which can help keep the airways open during sleep.
  2. Lifestyle and Environmental Changes: We may recommend weight management, regular exercise, altering sleep positions, and using a humidifier to ease breathing at night.

Benefits of a Holistic Approach

The holistic approach to sleep apnea offers key benefits:

  1. Addressing the Whole System: Our holistic dentists aim to improve overall health, enhancing sleep apnea treatment’s effectiveness by looking at the entire body and its systems.
  2. Customised Treatments: We consider individual differences in lifestyle and health, allowing for more personalised treatment plans.

The SomnoMed Device: Potential Support for Sleep Apnea


The SomnoMed device may offer some patients a more comfortable and convenient alternative to traditional CPAP machines. This custom-fitted oral appliance works by gently repositioning the lower jaw during sleep, preventing airway obstruction and facilitating uninterrupted breathing. Your dentist will consider what the best support is for you, which may depend on the severity of your symptoms.

The SomnoMed device is compact, discreet, and comfortable, enhancing compliance and ease of use. If suitable, it can address the underlying causes of sleep apnea, alleviating symptoms and reducing the risk of associated health complications.

Patient Case Study: A Success Story with Dr Lewis

A male patient, John, recently visited SHDC to see Dr Lewis Ehrlich. Based on his neck circumference, weight, and unusual jaw positioning, initial observations suggested a sleep disorder.

Dr Lewis conducted a detailed medical history and a panoramic dental X-ray. The medical history revealed a history of heart disease and signs of carotid calcification. Dr Lewis then referred John to a cardiologist, who confirmed the heart problems, and a sleep physician, who confirmed severe sleep apnea.

Dr Lewis collaborated with a general practitioner and the cardiologist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan for John’s sleep apnea and other sleep problems. John was prescribed a CPAP machine, which effectively opened his airways, resulting in better sleep quality and reduced cardiac risk.

This case study highlights the importance of a holistic approach to sleep apnea treatment, addressing oral health and overall wellbeing.

Key Takeaways

  1. Understanding the Significance of Quality Sleep: Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. It allows the body to undergo essential repair processes and ensures optimal brain function.
  2. Recognising the Symptoms and Risks of Sleep Apnea: Awareness of the signs of sleep apnea, such as loud snoring and waking up gasping for air, is essential for early detection and intervention. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues, including cardiovascular problems, obesity, and mental health disorders.
  3. The Vital Role of Dental Professionals in Sleep Apnea Treatment: Dentists play a pivotal role in identifying and addressing sleep apnea through comprehensive oral examinations. By collaborating with sleep specialists, they can tailor personalised treatment plans, potentially saving patients from the detrimental health consequences of untreated sleep apnea.
  4. Exploring Treatment Options: Various interventions are available to manage sleep-disordered breathing effectively, from custom-fitted oral appliances like the SomnoMed device to CPAP machines and lifestyle changes. Each treatment approach is tailored to the patient’s needs, aiming to improve sleep quality and overall health outcomes.

Take the First Step Towards Better Sleep and Health

If you suspect you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Start by discussing your symptoms with your dentist or primary care physician. They can guide you through getting diagnosed and finding the most suitable treatment for your needs.

At Sydney Holistic Dental Centre, we are dedicated to helping our patients achieve optimal sleep and overall health. Our experienced dental professionals are here to answer your questions and provide the support you need every step of the way.

Take the first step today: Call Sydney Holistic Dental Centre at (02) 9221 5800 to schedule an appointment and discuss your concerns with one of our experienced dental professionals. Remember, quality sleep is essential for overall health and well-being—don’t let sleep apnea stand in the way of living your best life.



Also, read our article: Start Your Day With A Good Morning Routine – for tips on supporting better sleep.