It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that’s characterized by repeated lapses in breathing as an individual sleeps. Sleep apnea ranges in severity, from moderate to severe obstruction of the airway. While the disorder is very treatable, the treatment that an individual seeks is largely going to depend on how significant the issue is. For instance, while those who have severe sleep apnea likely have to use the CPAP device to keep the airway open as they sleep, others with more minor airway obstruction may be able to get relief from seeing their dentist. Bottom line: Don’t race to the sleep clinic if you think you may have sleep apnea, as relief can come in the form of an oral appliance from your dentist.
Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea
Oral appliances, or mandibular advancement devices, are often successful in treating patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Specifically, they’re custom made to fit a patient, and work to keep the lower jaw forward as an individual sleeps. These devices prevent muscle relaxation in the throat from occurring, thus averting airway obstruction, the culprit behind sleep apnea.
One of the neat things about treating sleep apnea with an oral appliance is that they can actually strengthen the throat muscles over time, so there’s a good chance that the device will only need to be worn temporarily and not permanently. Some of these devices are also designed to adjust over time.
Another less-common type of oral device that a dentist may recommend is a tongue-restraining appliance. These devices are designed to keep the tongue in a forward position, thereby also keeping the airway open.
Benefits of Oral Appliances from the Dentist
We’ve already covered a few benefits when it comes to oral appliances for treating sleep apnea, notably that for those who qualify, they present a viable alternative to the CPAP machine and that patients may eventually outgrow symptoms by wearing these mandibular devices. It’s worth pointing out a few other benefits associated with oral appliances:
- Low cost: Compared to the CPAP device, oral appliances are generally less expensive. Hence, going this route can be a more affordable treatment option for patients with limited medical insurance.
- Comfort: One of the disadvantages of the CPAP is that it can be uncomfortable to wear at night, due to how the device fits over the mouth. Oral devices are far less uncomfortable and permit patients to sleep in any position without restrictions.
- Fewer side effects: While the CPAP is an effective way to treat sleep apnea, it’s not without its share of potential side effects. These may include everything from dry mouth to skin irritation to a stuffy nose, among others. Oral devices don’t come with as many side effects.
For more information on how your dentist can help you treat sleep apnea contact Caven Dental today.