Do You Have Sleep Apnea? Your Dentist Can Help With Myofunctional Therapy

Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep disorder affecting many individuals, with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) being the most common form. Studies indicate that OSAS predominantly impacts around 26% of people between the ages of 30 and 70 in the US. Fortunately, if you suspect you may have this condition, seeking assistance from your dentist could lead you to an innovative treatment called myofunctional therapy, offered by My Chico Dentist.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder characterized by the repeated cessation and resumption of breathing during sleep. If you snore loudly and are persistently tired even after a night’s sleep, you may be experiencing sleep apnea. This condition can significantly impact your overall health and quality of life.

Dentists play a crucial role in identifying and treating sleep apnea through a specialized approach known as myofunctional therapy. While dentists cannot diagnose this condition, they can often recognize symptoms and refer patients to sleep specialists for further evaluation. 

Myofunctional therapy, offered by dental professionals at My Chico Dentist, focuses on improving the function and coordination of the muscles involved in breathing and swallowing, ultimately alleviating sleep apnea symptoms.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea manifests in different forms, each with its own distinct characteristics. By familiarizing ourselves with the various types of this condition—obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and mixed sleep apnea—we can better understand this prevalent condition and its impact on sleep quality and overall health.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

The most common form of sleep apnea, OSA occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep. The blockage may result from relaxed throat muscles, a large tongue, or excess tissue in the throat, leading to disruptions in breathing.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Unlike OSA, CSA involves a communication breakdown between the brain and the muscles responsible for breathing. The brain fails to send appropriate signals, causing intermittent pauses in breathing during sleep.

Mixed Sleep Apnea

As the name suggests, mixed sleep apnea combines obstructive and central components. Individuals with mixed sleep apnea experience a combination of airway blockage and inadequate brain signaling, resulting in interrupted breathing patterns throughout the night.

Signs You May Have Sleep Apnea 

Identifying potential signs of sleep apnea is crucial for prompt diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect you may have this condition, it’s important to pay attention to specific indicators that may be present. 

Here are four common signs, as outlined by Johns Hopkins Medicine that might suggest the presence of sleep apnea:

  • Loud, chronic snoring. Regularly snoring loudly, especially accompanied by choking or gasping sounds during sleep, could indicate obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness. Feeling excessively tired or drowsy throughout the day, even after a full night’s sleep, is a common symptom of sleep apnea.
  • Morning headaches. Waking up with frequent headaches or experiencing them in the morning can indicate disrupted sleep due to sleep apnea.
  • Attention and memory problems. Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and impaired cognitive function can be linked to sleep apnea and the insufficient quality of sleep it causes.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea 

When it comes to managing sleep apnea, various treatment options are available to help individuals achieve restful sleep and improve their overall well-being. Dentists are critical in providing effective treatment alternatives, including myofunctional therapy. This specialized treatment focuses on strengthening and retraining the muscles of the face, mouth, and throat. It offers promising benefits, such as improved breathing patterns, reduced snoring, and enhanced effectiveness of other treatments.

Treatment options for sleep apnea may include:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

CPAP therapy is a standard treatment method that utilizes a machine to deliver a steady flow of air pressure through a mask worn during sleep. This helps keep the airway open and prevents interruptions in breathing. Alternative devices to CPAP, such as bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines, may also be recommended.

Oral Appliances

Dentists can provide custom-fitted oral appliances, also known as mandibular advancement devices (MADs), that help keep the airway open by positioning the jaw forward. These devices can be an effective treatment option, particularly for individuals with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, or those who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy.


Surgical interventions may address structural abnormalities or remove excess tissue obstructing the airway. Surgical options can vary depending on the specific needs and conditions of the individual.

Weight Loss

For individuals with obesity-related sleep apnea, weight loss can significantly improve symptoms. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet may be recommended alongside other treatment approaches.

Myofunctional Therapy

Myofunctional therapy, relevant to sleep apnea treatment, focuses on strengthening and retraining the muscles involved in breathing, swallowing, and tongue posture. This therapy offers potential benefits, such as improved muscle function and coordination, reduced airway collapsibility, and enhanced sleep quality.

Myofunctional therapy can complement other sleep apnea treatments, such as CPAP or oral appliances, by addressing underlying muscle dysfunction. It can help optimize the effectiveness of these treatments and reduce reliance on higher air pressure settings or provide an alternative option for those who cannot tolerate traditional therapies.

When considering myofunctional therapy, it is important to select a dentist or myofunctional therapist who specializes in this condition and has experience with this approach. Seeking a professional with expertise in both sleep disorders and myofunctional therapy will ensure comprehensive and personalized care.

Myofunctional Therapy in Combination With Your Sleep Apnea Treatment 

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, seeking professional help from a dentist experienced in myofunctional therapy can be a game changer for your sleep quality and overall well-being. With the expertise to assess your symptoms, a sleep apnea dentist can provide valuable guidance and recommend appropriate treatments tailored to your specific needs. 

By addressing underlying issues like mouth breathing and muscle dysfunction through myofunctional therapy, you can experience improved breathing patterns, reduced snoring, and increased effectiveness of other sleep apnea treatments. Don’t let sleep apnea disrupt your life any longer—take the first step towards better sleep and consult a qualified sleep apnea dentist who can guide you on a restful and rejuvenating night’s sleep.

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