Sleep apnea is a medical disorder characterized by the difficulty of breathing during sleep. When a person experiences this problem, he experiences apnea, or the halt of breathing, for some seconds or more. Because of the apnea, a person abruptly awakens to gasp for the lost air and breathing cycle that he was unable to perform. This causes severe sleep fragmentation, as apnea episodes occur more than five times and hour. It can even happen up to 100 times throughout the entire night.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea that occurs to 80% of all sleep apnea patients. It is caused by the excessive relaxation or the collapse of the upper throat muscles and soft tissues like the tonsils, adenoids, and uvula. When they collapse, these tissues tend to enclose on the airway, causing its blockage, thus making breathing completely stop. The halt in breathing is what is referred to as apnea, and the occurrence of apnea can be as seldom as twice an hour or as often as twice every 5 minutes.
The most common form of treatment for this disorder is the CPAP machine. It is a mechanical device which forcefully blows pressurized air into the airway, promoting normal respiration despite of the blockage on the throat. The pressure of the air used in CPAP therapy is dependent on the requirements of the patient as according to the diagnosis made when he underwent a sleep study. Usually, the pressure of CPAP machines range from 4 to 20 cm H2O.
Although effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea, many patients find CPAP therapy uncomfortable. It definitely has a lot of side effects which happen to almost all users like sore throat, dry mouth, nasal congestion, swollen sinuses, and jaw problems. But one other problem that some CPAP users are experiencing is teeth pain.
It is unclear how the teeth are directly affected by CPAP since the air that the machine uses does not have any chemicals whatsoever. But there have been reports that CPAP therapy causes an obscure pain on the teeth that cannot be explained by the patient. There are also other reports which may vary from moving teeth to lost alignment as well as incorrect bite, and even teeth having gaps. There has been no definite medical answer to these problems, but a lot of sleep apnea patients are having trouble with their teeth.
Some patients say that they feel something heavy applying an invisible pressure on their teeth after they remove their CPAP therapy system. This usually occurs in the morning after awakening. The pain may or may not disappear, but the disturbance is what causes more problems since the patient feels quite worried about this unknown teeth pain. On the other hand, some patients find that their bite is no longer normal, or their lower teeth have moved significantly to affect their bite. Other people have front teeth moving outward, and the rest are having gaps between their upper teeth.
Although there is no definite explanation or prevention to the teeth being affected by CPAP therapy, but whatever teeth problems may be caused by it can be easily corrected by a dentist. However, it is very inconvenient for a sleep apnea patient to deal with both sleep apnea and teeth problems since CPAP is already a very high-maintenance and expensive form of treatment, and dental operations and teeth retainers only add to the high cost of these machines.
It would be great to discover that there is an answer to the teeth problems associated with CPAP therapy so that users and well as doctors will be able to know what methods and procedures they can do to prevent such unnecessary problems. Perhaps in the near future, technology and science will be able to solve this.