At The Gentle Dentist we try to have relevant dental information that can change the lives of those who live in the Shelby, Sterling Heights and Washington areas of Macomb County, Michigan.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a Medical condition where the airway of a person is physically blocked and breathing is interrupted during sleep. Many times this is related to snoring, but when the snoring sounds stop and the person is struggling to get a breath in but can’t they eventually snort, partially waking up enough to breath again.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is caused by the relaxation of the muscles of the throat during the sleep cycle. If there is more soft tissue present than there is room then it physically obstructs and closes off the wind pipe to where no breath can get in even though there is the physical exertion to do so.  What typically happens is that the snoring will be sporadic and then you can observe the sufferer struggling for breath and finally after about 10-60 seconds of attempting to breath in they finally make a loud sound and then catch their breath. Each time this happens it is called an “episode”.  Each episode encountered the person experiences a surge of epinephrine (adrenaline) which speeds up the heart, blood pressure  increases and constricts the blood vessels.

Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This psychological activity wakes the person up enough where they can breathe.  Unfortunately, during the night when one needs the rest they are constantly woken up which has a huge impact on daily living.  Not only is the person chronically exhausted but they may suffer from a host of chronic illnesses.  This sporadic breathing is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, diabetes, sexual dysfunction and sleep deprived driving accidents .

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosis: Mild sleep apnea is when there are 5-15 episodes per hour, Moderate from 16-30 and severe greater than 31 episodes per hour.  These readings and a proper diagnosis can only be made by a sleep physician at a sleep lab.  These sleep studies require the patient to spend the night and they are hooked up to many sensors and devices that accurately measure eye movement, blood pressure, blood oxygen, brain wave activity and respiration.  The “lab” looks just like a nice hotel room and is very comfortable.

People who are more at risk are as follows:  obesity BMI >30, large neck circumference (16 inch in women, 17 inch in men), enlarged tonsils and large tongue volume and small lower jaw. Some treatments involve lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol or muscle relaxants, losing weight, and quitting smoking.  Because Detroit is noted for being the fattest city in America this information is pertinent for our community in particular.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment: After there has been a proper diagnosis from a sleep doctor there are modifications in life style and behavior which should be considered first which are mentioned above.  Next using a Continuous Positive Airway pressure (CPAP) is the gold standard.  This is a face mask that is hooked up to a small pump that provides humidified air which is pressurized to go into the lungs.  This is the best treatment, but there are many who don’t like using it because of the inconvenience, appearance and uncomfortableness.  Compliance is the most critical aspect of undergoing treatment and if the device works great but is not used there is no benefit.

An option that other dentists and we have in our Shelby Township dental office  is to provide an oral appliance that is used during the sleep. This device is custom made to fit your mouth and works by moving the lower jaw forward during sleep to open up the airway and provide more opening for air to flow down the trachea.  If you have taken CPR and remember when you grabbed the lower jaw and moved it forward in an attempt to get a breath in; this is the same concept.  The benefit of this device is that it is portable, is more comfortable and we find our patients more compliant using this device compared with the CPAP.

For more information on how to improve your sleep and life please give our Shelby Township dental office a call at (586)247-3500 or email me at

Dr. Antolak practices sedation, implant and general dentistry since 1987 in Shelby Township and in the Sterling Heights area and is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.