Sleep Apnea and new treatment options beyond CPAP
If you or a family member chronically snores and wakes up extremely tired in the morning, it is possible that they or you are dealing with a sleep disorder known as Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea occurs when a section of the airway becomes obstructed, causing the body to essentially choke on itself. This obstruction can cause repeated episodes of partial or complete suffocation, sometimes lasting a minute or more while the sufferer is asleep. Because these choking and suffocating episodes can often repeat frequently throughout the night, they can put the sufferer at increased risk of a myriad of health complications including stroke, heart attack and even death. Amazingly, nearly 1 in 4 adults over 30 are suffering from at least a mild degree of Sleep Apnea and don’t even know it.
The cause of this collapse in the airway is typically due to the soft tissues in the mouth, tongue or throat closing and blocking airflow during sleep. The first sign of this is often snoring, which occurs when one is attempting to breathe through a narrow airway. If left untreated, snoring frequently escalates to full OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea), caused when the narrow airway has become completely blocked.
ARE YOU AT RISK?
There are several risk factors and symptoms which may indicate OSA. Ask yourself the following questions:
-Do you snore loudly (louder than a person talking or loud enough to be heard through closed
-Do you often feel tired, fatigued or sleepy during the day?
-Has your spouse or bed partner ever observed you stop or pause breathing in your sleep?
-Do you have or are you being treated for high blood pressure?
-Are you overweight or obese?
-Are you over 50 years old?
-Is your neck circumference greater than 16 inches?
-Are you male?
If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions, it makes sense to have your sleep health evaluated. Our practice offers sleep assessments if you feel that you are possibly dealing with OSA.
New Hope for Sleep Apnea treatment with Oral Appliances
Traditionally, OSA has been treated with a CPAP machine, which feeds oxygen from an O2 tank into tubes that must be attached under or around the nose and sometimes even the mouth at night. While this helps to supply more oxygen to the CPAP patient, CPAP machines can be uncomfortable and noisy, which can makes compliance for some patients challenging.
Our practice specializes in fitting OSA patients with a custom fabricated oral appliance to help minimize the obstruction which often causes sleep apnea. The appliance works by holding your mandible (lower jaw) in a precise open and forward position. By doing so, the soft tissues in the throat and neck are no longer in a position to collapse, the typical cause of the nighttime choking and suffocating episodes associated with OSA.
The oral appliances that we make at our practice to treat Sleep Apnea are custom fitted for each patient over the teeth and are worn much like a sports mouthguard. This low-impact appliance is usually much easier for OSA sufferers who find CPAP therapy difficult to tolerate, also resulting in more effective treatment for the patient. In 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued updated treatment parameters, additionally recommending the use of custom fabricated oral appliances by specifically trained dentists for patients with snoring and sleep apnea who prefer the mouthpiece over CPAP therapy, or who have tried CPAP and are unable to maintain daily use.
Oral appliances can be a very comfortable and easy to use solution for managing Sleep Apnea and chronic snoring. If you currently have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea or suspect that you may have it and would prefer to not use a CPAP machine, consult our office for a sleep assessment and to determine if you are a good candidate for a custom fitted oral appliance.