What Are the Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea?

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing frequently stops for ten seconds or more, then restarts. It is characterized by loud snoring and may require the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Sleep apnea’s potential side effects may include: desaturation of the blood’s oxygen levels, fluctuating blood pressure and heart rate, an increase in cortical arousal, involuntary responses, and sleep fragmentation.[1]

You deserve a good night’s rest! Keep reading to learn more about sleep apnea and the treatments we offer at Old Town Smiles. Schedule your next consultation at your convenience, or call us at (703) 836-7000.

Though they may seem completely unrelated to one another, dentistry can play a crucial role in the treatment of sleep apnea. As part of routine dental examinations, dentists can recognize anatomic risk factors for sleep apnea and use the opportunity to identify potential patients through the use of simple screening questions.[2] We also have a home sleep test called Medibyte Jr. that you can be fitted for and  take home to see if you have sleep apnea. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dentists play a crucial role in diagnosing patients suffering from sleep-related breathing disorders. A dentist can identify symptoms and refer them to the appropriate doctor by reviewing the patient’s full medical history. Then, following a physical evaluation, diagnosis, and sleep test, your dentist can help determine if an oral device could be an effective treatment solution. Oral devices are worn during sleep to maintain the patency of the upper airway by increasing its dimensions and reducing its collapsibility.[3] Only those trained in dental sleep medicine can provide the appropriate oral device and optimize the patient’s fit. As the patient continues treatment, the dentist will communicate with the physician to track progress and ensure the best plan forward.

Located in picturesque Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, Old Town Smiles was designed with our patients’ comfort and care as our top priority. We look forward to getting to know you as we guide you through your dental journey.

About Sleep Apnea

Types of Sleep Apnea

  • Central Sleep Apnea
    • When the brain doesn’t properly signal the body to breathe.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
    • The most common form of sleep apnea. OSA is when the airways are blocked. 
  • Complex Sleep Apnea
    • A combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea.

The most common and recognizable sign of sleep apnea is continuously loud snoring, but the other symptoms to look out for are:

  • Suddenly waking up gasping for air.
  • Feeling drowsy throughout the day.
  • Sleeping with your mouth open.
  • Mood swings and irritability.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sore throat.

Contributing Factors to Sleep Apnea

  • Sleeping on your back.
  • Age.
  • Congestion.
  • Being overweight.
  • Smoking.
  • Medications & alcohol.

Potential Consequences of Sleep Apnea

  • High blood pressure.
  • Stroke.
  • Depression.
  • Heart disease.
  • Pre-diabetes & diabetes.

Dental Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea & Snoring

Most sleep apnea doctors recommend utilizing a CPAP mask, but those can be cumbersome and expensive for some patients. At Old Town Smiles, we prefer to provide our patients with a fully customized mouthpiece designed to keep the patient’s jaws in proper alignment as they sleep. With this device, the patient can keep their airways open and unobstructed throughout the night. 

Benefits of Dental Treatment for Sleep Apnea & Snoring

The oral piece’s primary benefit is that it will be customized to your mouth and offer a convenient solution to your sleep apnea concerns. Not only will you sleep better, but your partner will thank you for finding a way to alleviate snoring.


sleep apnea virginia

The ideal candidate for dental treatment of sleep apnea and snoring suddenly stops breathing while sleeping and snores. Sleep apnea can be a frightening condition for the patient and their partner and should be addressed as soon as you can. If you recognize some of the above-listed symptoms in you or your partner, it is time to get a professional opinion.

Personal Consultation

We work closely under the guidance of Board-Certified Sleep Physicians in our evaluation when sleep apnea is present. 

Click here to schedule a consultation, or call us at (703) 836-7000.


A private meeting with one of our dentists will allow you to explain your concerns and create a treatment plan. The first step in this plan will be a take-home test that evaluates your sleeping and will expose any sleep disorder details.


Once your test is completed, your dentist will create a mold of your mouth. The device made from this mold will adjust the jaw forward, allowing the upper airway to increase in size. It lowers air resistance and reduces snoring and moderate sleep apnea. The plastic appliance is used on the upper and lower teeth, like a mouthguard. This small device can be easily transported and is convenient for the majority of patients.


With this snoring solution, you and your partner will be able to get better quality sleep. You will feel more rested and alert throughout the day. A good night’s rest will do wonders for your health, and we provide an excellent remedy! An oral device can be used indefinitely and will give immediate results.

Complementary Procedures (optional)

Sleep apnea is often intertwined with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), a condition where the jaw and surrounding muscles experience pain and impaired movement. This pain interferes with the ability to obtain sleep, and disrupted sleep contributes to enhanced pain perception.[4] Patients describe the experience as feeling an uncomfortable pop, click, and shifting in the jaw area.

TMJD is treated with splints, retainers, physical therapy, and medication. In more severe cases of TMJD, patients may require additional dental work and surgery. 

If you think you or a loved one is experiencing TMJD, reach out to us for a consultation, or call Old Town Smiles at (703) 836-7000.

Following successful dental sleep medicine therapy, our patients report feeling more alert and active. Contact us today to schedule your appointment, or call us at (703) 836-7000.

If you’ve liked what you’ve read, come check out the Old Town Smiles Blog, where you’ll find great content about treatment options, policy updates, opinion pieces, FAQs, and much more. We hope to see you soon.


What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by loud snoring and staggered breathing that suddenly stops and starts. 

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is caused by narrowing the throat and air passages caused by several factors such as sleeping position and diet.

Are There Different Types of Sleep Apnea?

Yes, there are three different categories of sleep apnea: Central (where the brain fails to send breathing signals to the body), Obstructive (where the airways are blocked), and Complex (a combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea).

Can Sleep Apnea Kill You?

Sleep apnea is not likely to kill you, but it can lead to severe health conditions down the line if left untreated.

What Are the Risks of Sleep Apnea?

Risks of sleep apnea include drops in blood oxygen levels, overworking the heart, developing high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and daytime systemic hypertension.[5]

Who Is More at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

About half the people with sleep apnea are overweight. The condition is more likely among men and older people than women and children — although children with enlarged tonsils are at risk.

What Does CPAP Stand For?

CPAP is the acronym for the machine used to treat sleep apnea. It stands for continuous positive airway pressure. 

How Does a CPAP Machine Work?

A CPAP machine works by sending air and oxygen into your airways via a tube connected to a wearable mask. This apparatus prevents your airways from weakening, allowing you to breathe smoothly as you sleep.

Is There an Alternative to CPAP Machines?

Yes, there are alternatives to CPAP machines. Patients may choose to receive a customized oral appliance that aligns their jaws and clears the airways as they sleep.

How Does an Oral Appliance Work?

An oral appliance works by gradually repositioning the lower jaw forward, moving the tongue forward, opening the airway, and creating better muscle tone in the oropharyngeal area. Research has shown that the tongue is one of the significant factors contributing to throat and airway blockage.


  1. Young T, Skatrud J, Peppard PE. Risk Factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults. JAMA. 2004;291(16):2013–2016. doi:10.1001/jama.291.16.2013
  2. Quan, S. F., & Schmidt-Nowara, W. (2017). The Role of Dentists in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Consensus and Controversy. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 13(10), 1117–1119. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.6748
  3. Chan, A., S.L. MBBS, Lee, R., W.W. MBBS, & Cistully, P. A., MBBS PhD FCCP. (2007). Dental Appliance Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. CHEST, 132(2), 693-699. doi:https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.06-2038
  4. Edwards, R., Grace, E., Peterson, S., Klick, B., Haythornthwaite, J., & Smith, M. (2009). Sleep continuity and architecture: Associations with pain-inhibitory processes in patients with temporomandibular joint disorder. European Journal of Pain, 13(10), 1043-1047. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejpain.2008.12.007
  5. Dempsey, J. A., Veasey, S. C., Morgan, B. J., & O’Donnell, C. P. (2010). Pathophysiology of Sleep Apnea. Physiological Reviews, 90(1), 47-112. doi:https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00043.2008
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