Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is a sleep disorder where your throat closes partly or completely, leads you to stop breathing, and interrupts your sleep, especially if you snore or choke to intake more air. Medical professionals treat the condition with a continuous positive airway pressure machine known as CPAP, or with dental appliances – or in serious cases, both.
Why Treat Sleep Apnea
Failure to treat sleep apnea can lead to many serious conditions such as heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Even mild cases of sleep apnea disrupt sleep to the point that those who suffer from it are tired during the day and may find themselves unable to concentrate. Since those with sleep apnea often snore, their partners get much better sleep when they are no longer disrupted by the sounds of snoring and choking. However, the ways of treating sleep apnea can cause issues of their own.
Dental Appliances as Treatment for Sleep Apnea
For some patients, oral appliances serve to open airway passage by:
- Repositioning the lower jaw or tongue
- Stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue
- Increasing the tone of the tongue muscles
For those who can benefit from Oral Appliance Therapy, the devices have several advantages. Most people find them comfortable, easy to wear, quiet, portable and convenient for travel, and easy to care for. They can be costly, but tend to be covered by medical insurance as a CPAP treatment.
The biggest challenge with the appliances is that they can be uncomfortable and can lead to discomfort, excess salivation or dry mouth, and dental problems. A patient that wears them may need other dental treatment for temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, dental misalignment, bite changes, and spaces between the teeth
Most sleep apnea is treated with a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine that keeps the airway open during sleep. Used along with a mask or with soft silicone tubes known as nasal pillows that fit in your nose, it is the commonly prescribed treatment for the problem. However, it can lead to dry nose and sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, running nose, as well as skin sores or strap marks.
Surgical Approaches to Sleep Apnea
Oral surgeons can also perform procedures to modify structures in the face and mouth that can contribute to sleep apnea. For example, they can perform one of several types of surgery to open the airway. The surgical procedures can eliminate the need for either CPAP or oral appliances unless the condition is too extreme or the person is a poor surgical risk.
Sleep apnea is often diagnosed after a person has participated in a sleep study at a recognized center which may provide a prescription to a doctor or dentist for CPAP equipment, surgery, or dental appliances. For treatment of sleep apnea, visit Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah for a consultation and recommended treatment.