What Is Sleep Apnea?

Do you snore or wake up multiple times each night? Do you feel fatigued or irritable during the day? If you experience irregular breathing or constantly-interrupted sleep, you may be one of twenty-two million Americans living with Sleep Apnea.

Sleep apnea is characterized by compromised breathing during sleep, resulting in snoring, poor sleep quality, and oxygen deprivation. Long-term effects of untreated sleep apnea can lead to major health issues including high cholesterol, Type II diabetes, and heart attack. Sleep apnea can have a major impact on your mood, focus, and overall quality of life. Thankfully, treatment options are available!

If you think that you or someone you know has sleep apnea, Old Town Smiles will be happy to help you find relief. You deserve to enjoy a good night’s rest!

Types of Sleep Apnea

At Old Town Smiles, we offer sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment. If you or someone you know snores or has trouble sleeping through the night, dental sleep medicine therapy at Old Town Smiles can help!

First, we will determine which type of sleep apnea you are experiencing. The two predominant forms of sleep apnea are Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea.


Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the throat that support the soft palate relax. This narrows the airway, resulting in restricted breathing. Due to the fact that you are consuming less oxygen, your blood oxygen levels drop. You may gasp or choke. The brain may register the lack of oxygen and wake you up to encourage your airway to open. The moments of waking are frequently brief. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea may not recall these moments of wakefulness. This can occur at any time from five to thirty times an hour. These constant interruptions will prevent you from achieving adequate deep sleep.


In some cases of sleep apnea, the brain does not properly signal the need for your breathing muscles to function.

Patients with central sleep apnea will have moments during the night when their body fails to breathe. You may go without breathing for as long as ten seconds, or more!

People with central sleep apnea may be jerked out of sleep by lack of air. Central sleep apnea can also make it difficult to fall or stay asleep.

Do I Have Sleep Apnea?

You may have sleep apnea if you regularly experience:

  • Severe Snoring
  • Dry mouth
  • Momentary lapses in breathing during sleep. This may need to be observed by another person.
  • The need to gasp for air during sleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Fatigue during the day
  • Trouble focusing or feel irritable

While snoring is a common indicator of sleep apnea, not every sleep apnea patient snores.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Common causes of sleep apnea include:

  • Excess body weight
  • Overbite
  • Allergies
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Deviated septum

Some people are genetically predisposed to develop sleep apnea. If children experience obstructive sleep apnea, this may be an indicator of enlarged tonsils. Sleep apnea can also develop as a result of irregular growth caused by excess growth hormones. Children with Down Syndrome or Pier-Robin Syndrome are also more likely to experience sleep apnea.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Old Town Smiles is proud to offer sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Seema Ahmed work closely with board-certified sleep physicians during all sleep apnea evaluations to provide accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatments.

Patients may be asked to take an in-home sleep test to help with diagnosis. You may receive a device that will monitor your breathing, oxygen levels, and heart rate. Depending on your diagnosis, we will work with you and our partnered sleep physicians to find the form of sleep apnea relief that is best for you and your specific case.

What Happens if Sleep Apnea Goes Untreated?

Sleep apnea contributes to lack of sleep, which has shown to negatively impact mood and professional performance. Sleep apnea also puts a strain on the heart and cardiovascular system. If left untreated, health problems and complications can develop.

Sleep apnea increases the likelihood of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems or heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Insulin resistance
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gastric reflux
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Liver problems
  • Complications during surgery
  • Negative reactions to medication

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, let your doctor know before starting new medications or receiving general anesthesia.

Sleep apnea should not be taken lightly! You deserve restful sleep, good health, and peace of mind.

How Can I Treat Sleep Apnea?

If we or another practitioner have diagnosed you or your child with sleep apnea, there are a number of solutions available to restore sleep quality and reduce health risks. Old Town Smiles will work with you to find your best sleep apnea solutions.

The number one solution for our patients with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea is a removable mouth appliance. We work with you to take molds and create a custom oral device that can be worn during sleep to restore proper breathing function. Popular types of oral breathing aids include the Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) and Thorton Adjustable Positioner (TAP). A Mandibular Advancement Device holds the jaws in proper alignment to allow open airway function. A Thorton Adjustable Positioner will allow you to adjust your degree of jaw advancement.

Even if you do not have sleep apnea, oral sleep devices are an excellent solution for snoring!

If you or your partner snores, ask Dr. Ahmed about the benefits of an oral sleep device.

Adequate airflow will reduce the strain of oxygen deprivation on the heart and brain.

If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, your best treatment option may be a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, device. This device is designed to supply your body with a healthy supply of oxygen so that you can sleep peacefully. Depending on your case, you will wear a mask or nasal cannula while you sleep. The mask will provide healthy oxygen flow throughout the night. Some patients respond better to consistent airflow pressure, while others prefer a machine that will adjust to their breathing. There are different mask designs and a humidifier option to enable you to have comfortable, uninterrupted sleep.

CPAP machines provide effective relief, but most patients who experience sleep apnea and snoring will not require one. Many of our patients find the relief they need with a removable mouth appliance.

In some cases, weight loss will also help to relieve sleep apnea. Exercise regularly, avoid tranquilizers and sleeping pills and quit smoking to reduce your sleep apnea symptoms

In more severe sleep apnea cases, tissue removal surgery may be necessary.

Sleep is an important part of your health and happiness. Dental sleep medicine therapy at Old Town Smiles is proven to help patients be happier and more active during the day.

Treatment for sleep apnea will help raise your metabolism, stabilize your mood, lower your blood pressure, and drastically improve your overall quality of life. If you have questions about your sleep apnea treatment options, Dr. Ahmed will be happy to meet with you during a private, informative session!

Old Town Smiles: Our Difference

Oral health impacts and indicates the health of the entire body. With over 40 years’ experience in oral health care, Dr. Ahmed is dedicated to top-quality, comprehensive care. In fact, Washingtonian Magazine recognized Dr. Ahmed as Top Dentists 2019 for her commitment to her patients! She is proud to offer a full range of oral services designed to keep you comfortable and functioning at your best. If you are experiencing interrupted sleep, have difficulty breathing, or are experiencing pain, tenderness, or inflammation of the mouth or jaw,  Dr. Ahmed can help.

Frequently Asked Questions


Unfortunately, if sleep apnea goes untreated, it increases the chance of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes and heart problems. If sleep apnea continues unchecked, patients may experience a heart attack in their sleep.


Warning signs of sleep apnea include loud snoring, interrupted breathing for seconds at a time, trouble staying asleep, headaches, or feeling as if you have not slept. If you are experiencing these symptoms, we invite you to schedule a sleep apnea assessment at Old Town Smiles.


Children’s bodies may develop to no longer have the physical condition responsible for their sleep apnea. However, it is highly unlikely adult cases of sleep apnea will go away on its own. Lifestyle choices can reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea but will not necessarily be able to restore healthy breathing function during sleep. If you are experiencing sleep apnea symptoms, schedule an appointment to find out what you can do to restore restful sleep and avoid future health complications.

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