Oral appliances are becoming an increasingly popular treatment option for patients with snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. Oral appliances for sleep disorders can be fabricated in a dental office. They are similar to retainers or biteguards except they are worn on both the upper and lower teeth and articulate in a way that positions the lower jaw forward and opens the airway for a better night’s sleep. These appliances are more comfortable than continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) devices and more readily accepted by patients.
Snoring is very common effecting an estimated 30%-50% of Americans. Snoring is caused by a partial collapse of the soft tissues in the back of the throat while sleeping. Snoring can be an embarrassing behavior and can interrupt the sleep of those around you. Snoring is a common risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, not all people who snore have sleep apnea, and not all people who have sleep apnea snore.
OSA is a more serious condition that contributes to chronic health problems and can be fatal if untreated. OSA occurs when breathing is temporarily obstructed during sleep by the collapse of soft tissues in the airway. The body is deprived of oxygen leading to a slight arousal from sleep while the patient gasps for air. These mini episodes of airway obstruction and slight arousal from sleep can happen hundreds of times per night. OSA can lead to hypertension, diabetes, stroke and heart failure and death.
Common risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea are:
excessive daytime sleepiness
17.5 in. neck in men and a 15 in. neck in women
high blood pressure
a retruded jaw or narrow palate
large tonsils or tongue
Treatment options for OSA include CPAP, surgery, weight loss and oral sleep appliances. CPAP machines operate by attaching a mask over the face at night that pumps a continuous stream of air pressure keeping the air way inflated. Many patients find CPAP devices to be uncomfortable and cumbersome. For patients with mild to moderate OSA oral appliances provide an effective and less invasive alternative to CPAP.
If you think you or someone you know may have sleep apnea the first step is consult a board certified sleep physician or ENT and talk with them about having a sleep study conducted. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea talk with your physician to see if oral appliance therapy is the right choice. If so have the physician coordinate with your dentist to construct a sleep appliance. Most medical insurance plans will cover oral sleep appliances for the treatment of OSA. If you have any questions about how oral appliances can be used to treat OSA and snoring feel free to contact Boyd Family Dentistry.
Dr. Charles Boyd DMD