Sleep apnea causes a myriad of health problems, including stroke and congestive heart failure, but custom-made oral appliances offer a solution so you can breathe easy.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a very common and potentially life-threatening medical disorder that occurs when the soft tissue in a person’s throat repeatedly collapses and blocks the airway during sleep. These partial reductions and complete pauses in breathing typically last between 10 and 30 seconds, but can persist for one minute or longer. These pauses can happen 100 times per night, leading to abrupt reductions in blood oxygen levels causing less oxygen being delivered to your organs, including the heart and brain.
The brain alerts the body about the lack of oxygen, causing brief arousal from sleep that restores normal breathing, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. The result is a fragmented quality of sleep that often leads to excessive daytime sleepiness. Untreated OSA increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, memory loss and more.
Sleep apnea patients are often older, obese and have thick necks, over the age of 65 and smoke, but men and women of any age or body type can suffer from the condition. Additionally, the sleep disorder progressively worsens with age and weight gain, but there is a solution.
Dentists play an important role in helping diagnose and treat sleep disorders, and have pioneered the use of oral appliance therapy for the treatment of sleep apnea and sleep related breathing disorders. Custom-made oral appliances are an affordable, more comfortable solution to OSA than Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The CPAP device is a mask-like machine, worn during sleeping, that provides a constant stream of air that keeps your breathing passages open by blowing air into a mask that covers the nose and mouth.
An oral appliance, however, is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep, re-positioning the tongue and lower jaw forward to maintain an open airway, without sleeping with a mask and tubes connected to you like with the CPAP. Dentists trained in dental sleep medicine know how to select, fabricate, fit and adjust these devices, which look like a mouth guard or retainer, to help patients breathe freely during sleep. With an oral appliance, dentists can minimize or eliminate the symptoms of sleep apnea in mild to moderate cases.
In order to diagnose and treat sleep disorders, make an appointment with a dentist who is skilled in this area and who can provide you with the best treatment possible. This gives you, your loved ones, family members and friends an avenue for getting a good night’s sleep and reducing your risk for having heart problems or fatigue.