Atlanta Center for Dental Sleep Medicine
3621 Vinings Slope, Suite 4350 | Atlanta, GA 30339 | 770.444.9393
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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked


We all can agree that there is nothing sexy about snoring, and while joking about it and lending a little embarrassment isn't comfortable, for many snorers it is something that they live with.  The problem is that snoring may be giving us clues to some potentially life threatening health issues.  That loud, rattling, nasal snort frequently accompanies the relaxation of muscles behind the tongue that hold the airway open when we sleep.  Those snorting sounds often signal that your airway may be partially closing or closed, and that is a serious problem.  It is important to note that not all snoring means sleep apnea and not all people with sleep apnea snore.

The Greek word "apnea" literally means "without breath." Sleep apnea is a term for a group of sleep related breathing disorders that actually cause you to stop breathing for seconds to as much as a minute for potentially hundreds of times during sleeping.  Oxygen levels (oxygen saturation) in the blood decrease when you are not breathing and in an effort to get you to breathe, your body tries to wake you up (arousal).  Gasping during sleep can be a part of the process of arousing you from sleep to breathe. Sleep quality and body functions are impaired and thus leading to health consequences.

An obstruction is a blockage so Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the upper airway at the back of the throat collapses due to the tongue falling back, lax airway muscle tone, or nasal/throat structures not maintaining an open airway during sleep.  Large tonsils, adenoids, long hanging uvula, large tongue, narrow palate, floppy soft palate, large nasal turbinates are to name a few things that can contribute to the obstruction of the upper airway.  If the airway is obstructed to the point that air is reduced or blocked, low oxygen levels cannot support healthy brain and body functions.  This contributes to disease.  Atlanta Center for Dental Sleep Medicine can help you get the proper diagnosis and potentially life saving treatment.

Doctors categorize sleep apnea based on how many "apnea events" you have in any given hour of sleep.  There are many factors and formulas that go into determining how many and what kind of apneic events you have had.  Your physician will diagnose the severity of your apnea using your sleep study testing.  Only your physician can determine what or if treatment is needed based on your overall medical history and risk factors for serious health problems.

You may get a clue that you may have sleep apnea when your bed partner constantly complains of being awakened by loud and erratic snoring.  The snoring is usually associated with periods of silence that may last from 10 seconds to as long as a minute or more.  When there is silence, there is the possibility you have slowed or stopped breathing.  The end of the silence is frequently associated with a series of loud snores, deep breaths, mumbling or moaning.  "When the oxygen in your blood falls during breathing pauses, it signals your brain to wake up very briefly and draw a breath," notes Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Director of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center.  "Fantically trying to draw a breath can make you start gasping, snorting or choking to try to get air."

  • You may excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • You may have hypertension or high blood pressure.

Sleep apnea is linked to hypertension.  According to Edward Grandi, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association, your body goes into "fight or flight" mode when you stop breathing and it causes your blood pressure to spike.  "This happens over and over throughout the night," he says.  "Eventually, your blood pressure doesn't dip anymore, it stays elevated, putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease."

  • You may wake up with headaches.
  • Forgetfulness, mood changes, decreased interest in sex, drowsiness while driving, and dry mouth/throat upon wakening may be some, but not all of the other signs that you may have sleep apnea.

Yes.  It can lead to Heart Attack, Atrial Fibrillation, Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, Insomnia, Snoring/Decreased Oxygen Intake, Adult Onset Diabetes, Restless Leg Syndrome, Daytime Sleepiness and Fatigue, Acid Reflux/GERD, Increase in Weight, Inability to lose weight, High Blood Pressure, Depression/Mood Swings, Hormone Imbalance, Dry Mouth Syndrome, Memory Loss, Continual Severe Headaches, Tooth Erosion/Sensitivity, TMJ Discomfort, Bite Alteration/Grinding, ADD and ADHD, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Impaired motor vehicle operation (drowsy driving) and Marital Problems (separate bedrooms and a sleep deprived spouse).

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a very serious condition.  Don't delay treatment.  Call us today at 770.444.9393.

When sleep apnea is very mild, your physician may recommend lifestyle changes to see if you can get improvement by losing weight, stopping smoking, or visiting a sleep therapist to improve sleep hygiene habits.

The following methods represent some of the available treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).  If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, the first line of treatment is a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your nose and/or mouth while you sleep.
  • Adjustable airway pressure devices (e.g., BiPAP).  There are also airway pressure devices that automatically adjust the pressure while you're sleeping.  BiPAP units supply bi-level positive airway pressure and provide greater pressure when you inhale and a lesser amount when you exhale.
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP).  This is the most recent treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  They are small, single-use devices that are placed over each nostril before you go to sleep.  The device is a valve that allows air to move freely in, but when you exhale, small holes in the valve allow air to exit.
  • Oral appliances: Non-invasive, removable plastic device worn much like a athletic mouth guard or orthodontic retainer that brings the lower jaw forward so that the airway can open.
  • Surgery: Usually only an option after other treatments have failed.  There are a number of types of surgery that range from reducing the tongue, removing tissue from the back of the throat, opening a new airway in your neck, nasal surgery and relocating or expanding the jaws.  These are a few examples, however, your doctor can discuss the many surgical options that my may be right for you.

Yes, grinding your teeth during your sleep, called sleep related bruxism has a relationship to gnashing and grinding your teeth while trying to get your airway open during your sleep.  It could lead to broken teeth, facial muscle pain, tooth damage or TMJ problems.  The Atlanta Center for Dental Sleep Medicine is a dental practice and can help you address these dental problems to avoid long term damage to your teeth and supporting structures.

If you know you have apnea or another sleep disordered breathing condition, your care should be under the direction of a physician.  Atlanta Center for Dental Sleep Medicine provides, under a prescription from your physician, an Oral Appliance that is custom made and monitored by our practice.  The health consequences are too great to gamble with self-diagnosis on the Internet.

Lose weight if you are obese with Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or more.  You don't have to know your BMI to know if you are carrying too much excess weight.

Up to 67 percent of people diagnosed with sleep apnea are overweight.  As your weight increases, the amount of fat that surrounds your airway and throat increases. The additional fat causes narrowing of the airway opening, making it more difficult to breathe.  Losing weight most likely won't make the condition go away, however, it can go a long way towards helping to reduce your risks.

Call us and make an appointment at 770.444.9393.  We'll take good care of you.