Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition in which you stop breathing periodically during sleep, resulting in temporary drop in your oxygen levels. It can happen as many times as 20-30 times a night and can have a significant impact on your overall health. Long-term effects of the condition have been associated with an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attacks and strokes.
Patients with sleep apnea often feel very drowsy during the day and are told they snore loudly at night. If you think you may have sleep apnea, see your primary care physician for an evaluation. They may refer you for a sleep study or directly to a sleep medicine specialist to determine the precise cause of your sleep disturbances and to prescribe you the appropriate treatment.
But What Does Dentistry Have to do With Sleep Apnea?
The gold standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is the CPAP machine. Many patients find the CPAP bulky and uncomfortable, resulting in poor compliance and ineffective treatment.
Patients who suffer from CPAP discomfort may be good candidates for a custom fabricated oral sleep apnea appliance. The oral appliance is a removable device that is worn while you sleep. It is similar to a nightguard or thick retainer and attaches to teeth on both your upper and lower arches. The appliance is designed such that the lower arch is mechanically pulled slightly forward overtime. This calibrated movement of the device brings the tongue and soft tissue forward, resulting in a more open airway, less snoring, and more oxygen reaching the lungs.
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea can be effectively treated with oral appliance therapy. However, it is imperative this medical condition is concurrently followed by their sleep medicine specialist and it is common for patients to have follow-up sleep studies once their device has been optimized.