Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition that makes the sufferer stop breathing for 10 or more seconds at regular intervals during sleep. When airways are blocked, the temporary oxygen deprivation can cause potentially dangerous physiological changes.
Sleep apnea sufferers wake up tired, unrefreshed, and with an aching head. This chronic exhaustion and malaise have been linked to increased automobile and work-related accidents and other harmful consequences.
There are a variety of sleep apnea devices available to help keep airways open for easier breathing while asleep. Appliances that fit in the mouth are most common.
Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea
Mouth appliances like orthodontic devices are designed to be worn in the mouth during sleep. They prevent the airways from narrowing or collapsing to enable easy continuous breathing. Oral appliances are most effective in treating mild to moderate sleep apnea.
The market offers more than 80 different oral devices for treatment of sleep apnea and snoring. Most are devices that move the lower jaw forward or are “tongue retaining appliances.” Both options aim to prevent or reduce the sleeper’s tongue falling backward and blocking the airway. They can be custom-made or generic and need to be fitted by a dentist. Examples include:
· Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD). A type of mouth guard, it snaps over the top and bottom teeth. The hinges move the lower jaw forward, keeping tongue and soft palate stable, keeping the airway open during sleep.
· Tongue Retaining Device. Less frequently prescribed, this splint-like device holds the tongue in place to keep airways open. It is not as user-friendly and less comfortable than the MAD mouth guard.
· Boil-and-Bite Device. This is heated by immersion in hot water and then bitten into to make it fit the mouth. It moves the lower jaw forward to improve breathing.
· Custom-made devices work better than over-the-counter ones to help the patient sleep soundly, reduce snoring and to minimize the number of oxygen-deprivation events per hour.
People who suffer mild to moderate sleep apnea, especially those who habitually sleep on their backs or stomachs, may be helped by oral devices to improve their sleep, reduce the rate and intensity of snoring. Generally, sleep apnea sufferers are more consistent with their use of oral appliances than continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
Dental Devices Better Than Surgery
Dental devices have demonstrated better success in controlling sleep apnea in the long term compared to the traditional surgical procedure for sleep apnea (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty or UPPP), in which the soft tissue from the back of the throat is surgically removed.
However, dental devices can have some drawbacks. The most common of these are an altered bite, movement, or pain in the teeth, dry lips, and excessive salivation. There have been incidences of arthritis of the temporal mandibular joint.
Always talk to your dentist before deciding on a mouth device for treatment of sleep apnea. He or she will be able to recommend oral appliances that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which may be used in conjunction with other apnea treatments.
A good dentist is a comprehensive caretaker for your oral health. Dr. Steven Hagerman and his staff provide friendly and caring dentistry in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. For cleanings, general dentistry, and cosmetic procedures call (651) 646-2392 for an appointment today.