August 21, 2019
Breathing is an effortless task that you rarely need to think twice about, but if your airway becomes obstructed somehow, the consequences could be life-threatening. While you’re likely to notice if you stop breathing while you’re awake, you could also be suffering from frequent airway obstructions while you’re asleep and not even realize it! Your dentist in Coral Gables can help you diagnose your symptoms and find a treatment plan that will let you breathe easy day and night.
Causes of an Obstructed Airway
Airway obstructions are often connected to a structural or functional issue in your mouth or throat. A common cause is throat muscles that relax more than normal while you’re asleep, causing your airway to narrow or close. In other cases, the blockage may be caused by the tongue falling back. These issues tend to occur more frequently in overweight or obese patients. Other risk factors include a naturally narrow airway, enlarged adenoids and tonsils due to allergies, and tongue ties.
Consequences of an Obstructed Airway
It probably goes without saying that a blocked airway will interrupt your breathing, lowering the oxygen levels in your blood. If breathing doesn’t resume quickly, your life could be in danger. Frequent breathing interruptions will put a strain on your cardiovascular system; you could be at risk for heart attacks and stroke. You might even suffer sudden death from cardiac arrest.
An obstructed airway could also cause sleep apnea. When suffering from this disorder, your brain will notice that breathing has stopped and will wake you up briefly so that the airway can be reopened. This can happen multiple times each night, but your awakenings will be so brief you may not even remember them. The frequent interruptions will make it impossible to get a full night’s sleep. Your body won’t reach the deeper, restorative stages of the sleep cycle, and as a result you’ll experience severe drowsiness and fatigue during the day; this can make it difficult to concentrate and increase your risk of accidents on the road or at work.
Symptoms of an Obstructed Airway
Symptoms of airway obstruction vary depending on the cause, but the most obvious sign is difficulty breathing or gasping for air. You could also experience increased blood pressure due to the cardiovascular strain.
If your airway is being obstructed while you sleep, you might snore loudly during the night, disturbing other people sleeping nearby. If you live on your own, the issue can be harder to recognize, but you might occasionally wake up gasping for air. Other symptoms include morning headaches, difficulty focusing during the day, irritability, and waking up with a dry mouth.
Treating an Airway Obstruction
You can contact your dentist if you think you might be suffering from airway obstructions at night. They can arrange for a sleep study to verify the problem and prescribe an appropriate treatment. For example, if you have sleep apnea, you might receive an oral appliance that will reposition your jaw and/or tongue in a way that will help keep the airway open.
If you believe you’re having difficulty breathing, don’t wait until severe complications develop; take the first steps toward diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible!
About the Author
Dr. Jose A. Bushdid has extensive training and qualifications that let him provide many different kinds of dental care. For instance, he’s skilled in placing dental implants; he can also diagnose and treat breathing issues such as sleep apnea. If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from an obstructed airway, contact Bushdid Smiles today to schedule an appointment.
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