Sleep Apnea Appliance
Imagine waking up 112 times per night.
If you have sleep apnea, then this could be the challenge you face every evening as you try to get a good night’s rest.
Many patients with obstructive sleep apnea are instructed by their doctors to get a CPAP machine, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure.
A CPAP device may help you breathe better and sleep more comfortably, but it also involves wearing a mask over your face and using a machine to help keep your airways clear.
- What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
- Dental Devices for Sleep Apnea
- How do Oral Appliances Work?
It’s only natural to wonder what your other alternatives are, so in this article, we’ll share helpful information about dental (oral) appliances for sleep apnea, discuss the pros and cons of these devices, and answer some common questions we get when it comes time to choose the right solution for this condition.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
This sleep disorder affects approximately 4% of men and 2% of women. Despite its prevalence, only about 10% of sufferers seek treatment.
So, what is it?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA is when your airways become either partially or entirely blocked while you’re asleep. It’s the result of the muscles of the throat relaxing to a point where they collapse and close off the air supply. Fortunately, the brain will wake you up to resume breathing.
Sometimes, you’ll be fully roused, and other times, you won’t become fully conscious. However, either way, it’s interrupting your sleep and making you susceptible to other health challenges that come from lack of sleep.
There are also two other types: central and mixed. While obstructive is a mechanical disorder where a part of your body doesn’t work as it’s supposed to, central is characterized by a neurological condition in which the brain doesn’t send the proper signal to breathe. Mixed is even more problematic because it’s a combination of obstructive and central apneas.
The most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, so that will be the focus of this article. In addition to disrupted sleeping and the annoying side effect of snoring, sufferers are also at a higher risk of sudden cardiac death, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Dental Devices for Sleep Apnea
Mandibular Advancement Devices
The goal of dental devices is to keep the airways unobstructed by opening up the jaw and preventing the tongue from collapsing back into the throat. One of the most popular tools used is a mandibular advancement device (MAD). Mandibular means lower jaw.
The device looks like a mouth guard, but it has custom springs and adjustments that push the lower jaw and tongue forward. This, in turn, opens up the mouth and airway, keeping you breathing peacefully through the night.
Not only do mandibular advancement devices reduce the symptoms, they also work to strengthen the muscles of the tongue and surrounding mouth muscles. When these muscles become stronger, the incidences of apneas tend to decrease.
Tongue Retaining Mouthpieces
This mouthpiece is more straightforward than a MAD, but there’s a tradeoff. It looks a bit like an adult pacifier. However, it gets high marks from people who’ve tried it, so many think it’s worth looking a little bit silly in exchange for a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
A tongue retaining mouthpiece works by holding the tongue forward. You insert your tongue into the device, and it keeps it in a prominent position, away from the back of your throat.
How do Oral Appliances Work?
For people who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine, dentists may recommend an oral appliance. The purpose of this appliance is to keep your airway open while you sleep, so that you can breathe easily without any apnea interruptions.
They should be custom-fitted by your dentist to ensure both comfort and effectiveness.
While CPAP machines are still considered to be the recommended treatment plan, dental appliances serve well as a backup or in concert with a CPAP device.