Los Angeles, CA dentist answers questions about dental appliance therapy for sleep apnea


Dr. Don Mungcal, owner of Downtown Dental in Los Angeles, CA, shares this helpful information about sleep apnea and the effectiveness of a dental appliance for treatment.
While sleep apnea has likely been around throughout mankind’s history, its first official mention in medical literature occurred in 1965. Since that time, the term has become more commonplace. Yet there are many questions about the condition. Dr. Don Mungcal, owner of Downtown Dental in Los Angeles, CA, shares this helpful information about sleep apnea and the effectiveness of a dental appliance for treatment.

What happens with sleep apnea?

If you have sleep apnea, nighttime probably follows a predictable pattern. You get comfortable in bed and take a few normal breaths. As you fall deeper into sleep, you begin to snore, and the sound gets progressively louder as the pathway for air to get into and out of your body narrows. With each passing minute, less oxygen reaches your lungs, heart, and brain. Breathing may cease entirely for a few seconds or up to several minutes. Your brain senses danger, just as it would if you were choking or drowning. It orders a jolt of adrenalin to stimulate your primal fight or flight response. You jerk awake, take a deep gasp or two, reposition, and try to go back to sleep.

If you are a severe apneic, this cycle may repeat dozens of times per hour. That keeps you from reaching deep stages of sleep where hormones are released that trigger cellular regeneration.

Do you have physical symptoms of sleep apnea?

Loud, chronic snoring is often associated with sleep apnea, but some apneics do not have this symptom. Other signs of sleep apnea include:
  • Odd sleep positions. Your body tries to adjust to keep the airway open, so you may unknowingly prop up on one elbow or contort the head to one side.
  • Noisy, open-mouth breathing.
  • Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning.
  • Waking with a headache.
  • Migraines.
  • Insomnia – inability to stay asleep at night (as opposed to difficulty falling asleep).
  • Frequent nighttime bathroom breaks.

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Is sleep apnea affecting more than your sleep?

Even mild sleep apnea can have a serious direct effect on your health. Repeated oxygen deprivation places tremendous strain on the cardiovascular system, elevating blood pressure and increasing risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. The condition is linked to obesity, depression, and TMJ disorders, and the health risks that go along those issues.

The impact of sleep apnea extends to many other areas of your life including relationships. Loud snoring may cause resentment and eventually drive your sleep partner to the far edge of the bed or another room. Intimacy also suffers as the apneic’s libido drops from lack of rest, and irritability increases.

Sleep apnea could be holding you back from achievements at work or school. The condition dulls mental focus and impairs memory.

Hypersomnia, a side effect of sleep apnea, is characterized by daytime drowsiness and falling asleep at inappropriate times. This can be a big risk factor in vehicular accidents and injuries in the workplace.

Effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea reduces these threats.

Is CPAP your only option?

Image of a couple suffering from Sleep Apnea
Historically, obstructive sleep apnea was treated surgically, with removal of tissues at the back of the throat, repositioning the jaw, or modifying the tongue. Fortunately, today a surgical approach is used only in extreme cases.

Continuous positive airway pressure therapy then become the standard of treatment. A small compressor creates a flow of air directed through a nasal mask. The increased pressure holds the airway open, facilitating easier breathing. CPAP works well when it is utilized consistently. However, most people don’t find it convenient or comfortable. In some cases, CPAP aggravates existing sleep apnea symptoms such as dry mouth, and may irritate facial skin.

A properly-fitted dental appliance can achieve similar results, in a user-friendly fashion.

Where to find dental appliance therapy for sleep apnea in Los Angeles, CA?

Dr. Mungcal has helped many patients in the Los Angeles area get better sleep that contributes to health and overall quality of life, with oral appliance therapy. He customizes the fit of a splint, a device that looks something like a mouthguard. It repositions the jaw slightly forward and open and depresses the tongue to prevent tissues from blocking the airway.

Just slip the appliance in place before going to sleep and take it out in the morning. Most people adapt quickly to the feel, and the device is easy to keep clean. Plus, the unit fits into your pocket, handbag, or carry-on, so you can sleep better anywhere.

Do you have more questions about sleep apnea and effective dental treatment for the condition? Call Downtown Dental at (213) 863-9464 to schedule a visit with Dr. Mungcal.

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