Sleep Apnea Overview

Sleep Apnea Grand Rapids MI | Sleep Apnea Treatment

Snoring caused by Sleep apnea has the potential to prevent a good night’s sleep, cause headaches, and place stress on relationships and normal daily activity; that’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that there are many types of snoring treatments that can help. Oral appliances are one such option for treating sleep apnea. Dr. Jerry Mulder can evaluate if they might be right treatment solution for you.

The Grand Rapids dentists at A Life of Smiles have extensive success helping patients stop snoring and allowing them (and their family members) to regain healthy, restful sleep. If you or a loved one is a chronic snorer who also experiences other symptoms discussed below, please call (616) 379-3159 to schedule your sleep apnea consultation.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which sleep is interrupted by recurring pauses in breathing. The pauses can occur anywhere between 5 to 30 or more times an hour and result in extreme tiredness the next day. Sleep apnea affects your physical well-being during the day and prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleep apnea affects more than ten million people (according to the National Institutes of Health), disrupting sleep and causing headaches and lack of concentration. This sleep disorder is common, dangerous, easily recognized, and treatable.

What is Snoring?

Snoring occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat, causing the tissues to vibrate as you breathe, creating hoarse or harsh sounds. During normal breathing, the muscles that control the tongue, throat, and the roof of your mouth (soft palate) hold the airway open. When you doze off, those same muscles relax. The tissues in your throat can relax enough that they vibrate and may partially obstruct your airway. The more narrowed your airway, the more forceful the airflow becomes. Tissue vibration increases, and your snoring grows louder.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In severe cases, snoring may also be associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). When muscles relax too much, throat tissues obstruct the airway and prevent breathing.

The Mayo Clinic explains: “Sleep apnea is often characterized by loud snoring followed by periods of silence that can last 10 seconds or more. Sometimes, complete obstruction does not occur, but rather, while still snoring, the airway becomes so small that the airflow is inadequate for your needs. Eventually, the lack of oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide signal you to wake up, forcing your airway open with a loud snort or gasping sound. This pattern may be repeated many times during the night.”

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

The following factors may put you at risk for sleep apnea:

  • Obesity
  • Increasing age
  • Male gender
  • Anatomic abnormalities of upper airway
  • Family history
  • Alcohol or sedative use
  • Smoking

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea—particularly obstructive sleep apnea. It is typically accompanied by multiple symptoms that may include:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Repeated stops in breathing during sleep
  • Episodes of waking from sleep gasping or choking for air
  • Inability to sleep through the night
  • Recurring morning headaches
  • Regularly waking with a dry mouth and/or sore throat
  • Difficulty focusing while awake

Because these symptoms can seem vague or go unnoticed by a person with sleep apnea, many people don’t pursue diagnosis and treatment. Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition, and it’s important to undergo an evaluation if you or a loved one is a heavy snorer who also suffers from other indicators listed here.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Practice Parameters

Severity of apnea is defined by the length of time of apnea events and the percentage of oxygen desaturation (lowered amount of oxygen in the blood).

Events per hour Categorization
Less than 5 Non-Medical
5-15 Mild
15-30 Moderate
Over 30 Severe

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Treatment for sleep apnea can range from an airway apparatus to lifestyle changes or sleeping alterations. The gold standard of care for treating sleep apnea is and has been the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). However, it is estimated that nearly 60-70% of Sleep Apnea patient’s abandon their CPAPs, and then are left with no treatment or solution against this life threatening condition.


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For those sleep apnea patients that have tried, but found they are CPAP intolerant, dental oral sleep appliances (OSAs) are a wonderful alternative for treatment. OSAs for sleep apnea are worn at night, and work by bringing the jaw forward which brings the tongue forward as well, allowing space for the airway to stay open. Some of the advantages of the OSA are comfort, portability and esthetics resulting in much higher compliance rates than with the CPAP.

Sleep Apnea Solutions

One effective solution includes wearing a special snoring device, or oral appliance, for the mouth and that’s where we can help.

Dr. Mulder can do a thorough examination to determine what causes your breathing blockage. He will also determine what kind of oral appliance will help promote the free flow of air and eliminate the obstruction. (He might also recommend consulting a sleep disorder specialist before continuing with treatment if necessary.)

Dr. Jerry Mulder will work with you to find the most comfortable and effective treatment for your needs. The SomnoDent MAS, the Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP), and the Adjustable PM Ultra Positioner are custom, adjustable oral appliances—similar to a mouth guard or retainer—that are worn while sleeping. The appliances work by holding the lower jaw forward, preventing the tongue and the soft tissue of the throat from collapsing into the airway. Most allow you to freely open your mouth, speak, and drink while wearing your splint.

Sleep Apnea - Overview | A Life of Smiles SomnoDent MAS
Sleep Apnea - Overview | A Life of Smiles Thornton Adjustable Positioner
Sleep Apnea - Overview | A Life of Smiles Adjustable PM Ultra Positioner

All of the oral appliance’s Dr. Mulder works with are patient-friendly and excellent solutions for snoring and sleep apnea. Don’t let snoring disrupt your night’s rest any longer.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a life-threatening medical disorder. Diagnosis must be made by a physician. Dentists are not medically qualified, nor legally permitted to diagnose sleep disorders, however they can play an important role in treatment.

Dr. Mulder can:

  • Provide initial screening and offer a referral.
  • Provide and monitor oral appliance therapy as part of the treatment team with your physician.
  • Monitor and treat potential side effects of oral appliance therapy.
  • Follow up.

Sleep Apnea Health Risks

Sleep apnea, if left untreated, is extremely dangerous and can be a life threatening condition. Additionally, sleep apnea has been linked to multiple other health issues and systemic disorders such as:

  • Congestive Heart failure
  • Hypertension (High blood pressure)
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes
  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Cancer – Several recent studies found that not only were sleep apnea patients more likely to develop cancer (68% more likely), but they were also more likely to die from cancer (increased morbidity by 4.8x!)

Sleep apnea can also lead to an inability to concentrate while awake and cause progressive changes in mood, including severe depression.

Schedule a Consultation

Don’t let snoring disrupt your night’s rest any longer. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Jerry Mulder.

Also, if you have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a CPAP machine, but have stopped wearing it, we may have a more comfortable solution for you. Contact us today at 616.458.0631 to learn more about our sleep apnew treatments.