How to Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea (And How a CBCT Scan Can Help)

October 12, 2022

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders, though it’s often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Fortunately, there are simple tests you can do to figure out if you have sleep apnea and whether a more detailed diagnostic test might help.

Here’s how to tell if you have sleep apnea, along with what you can do to get proper treatment.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in your throat relax and the airway becomes blocked. This blocks air from passing through which causes you to stop breathing. When this happens, the brain senses it and then sends signals for you to start breathing again. This process can happen as many as 30 times per hour during sleep, disrupting your sleep cycle and leaving you feeling tired throughout the day.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea?

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is snoring. The reason for this is because when you have sleep apnea, your throat muscles relax and block your airways, which causes the breathing pauses during sleep.

This can cause noisy snores as well as moments where you stop breathing altogether. Other symptoms include daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, sore throat or dry mouth upon waking up in the morning, and trouble concentrating.

How To Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea?

To find out if you have sleep apnea, your doctor will ask you questions about your sleeping patterns and symptoms. Your doctor may also ask you to fill out an Epworth Sleepiness Scale questionnaire which helps determine how likely it is that you have sleep apnea.

A sleep study called a polysomnography can also be used to diagnose sleep apnea. This test records brain waves, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing patterns and eye movements during the night and is more accurate than self-reported questionnaires in diagnosing the condition.

If your doctor suspects that you have sleep apnea or another type of breathing disorder, he or she may recommend that you get a CT scan of your airways.  The CBCT machine at Reveal Diagnostics uses multiple views of the patient's throat area to create a 3D rendering of their airway space with details as small as one millimeter.

These detailed images help doctors identify obstructions in the airway caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids, large tongue base or even cysts on the palate.

Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea

1.  Mouth guards are both easy to use and simple in design. An oral appliance for sleep apnea like the mandibular advancement device attaches to your lower jaw to ensure the tongue and other mouth tissues do not block the airways.

2.  For those with lung problems or obstructions of airways, night time usage of a Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) device with a specific mask can work. Although these can be effective, they are often bulky or uncomfortable to wear.

3. Patients have reported feeling relief from making certain sleep and lifestyle adjustments including sleeping on their side, losing body fat, and exercising more. That said, sleep apnea may persist even after altering your habits, so talk to a doctor if you have trouble controlling your sleep apnea.

4. Surgery. Inflammation of tissue in the back of the throat, as well as a deviated septum, can cause sleep apnea. Surgery is often a last resort only when other treatments haven't solved the problem.

Who's At Risk For Sleep Apnea?

There are many people who are at risk for sleep apnea, including: people who are overweight, those who have a family history of sleep apnea, and those with chronic nasal congestion or sinus problems.

However, it's possible that even thin and healthy people could suffer from the disorder. That's why it's important to understand how you can tell if you have sleep apnea and what your treatment options may be.

How A Sleep Apnea Dentist Can Help

If you think you might have sleep apnea, your first step should be to see your dentist. He'll examine your mouth and check for any signs of obstructions, and order a CBCT scan to confirm the diagnosis.

In some cases, we may also recommend that you get a sleep study done. This is typically done in the hospital and will help determine if you have symptoms of sleep apnea. He may also help fit patients with oral devices that are convenient and easy to use—and can help when other treatment options haven’t.

How A CBCT Scan Helps Diagnose Sleep Apnea

A CT scan can help diagnose sleep apnea by providing an in-depth view of the airway and upper respiratory tract. The CBCT scan at Reveal Diagnostic centers in the San Francisco Bay Area is a quick, noninvasive procedure that can reveal diagnostics that are not visible on other imaging techniques.

The CBCT scan can show areas of the airway that may be narrowed or blocked due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, anatomic abnormalities such as excessive tissue in the nasopharynx or nasal passages, or soft tissue growths like polyps.

To learn more about how we can help you manage your sleep apnea, schedule an appointment today or call us to learn more about the cutting-edge diagnostic options we provide.

We look forward to seeing you and helping you get a more restful night’s sleep!  

Resources From Our Blog

In The News: Reveal Diagnostics is now officially MIPPA Accredited!
How CBCT Sinus Scans are Helping ENT Patients
Children’s Dental X-rays 101: Types, Safety, and When to Get Them
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