Many people are familiar with the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines for sleep apnea treatment. Although CPAP machines are the most prescribed method of treating this sleep disorder, they are not the only one. Oral dental appliances are also used in treating snoring and sleep apnea.
Refresher on Sleep Apnea
Under normal circumstances, when you sleep, your airway remains clear and you are able to breathe without interruption. When a person snores while sleeping, this is an indication of a partial obstruction of the airway. The muscles relax and those in the back of the throat collapse just enough to partially block the airway.
In the case of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the airway becomes totally blocked, interrupting breathing. These periodic episodes can happen once or twice or hundreds of times throughout the sleeping period. Each episode lasts up to ten seconds before the brain sends a message to wake up and start breathing. This cycle leaves a person fatigued and, in the case of severe OSA, can have serious effects on your general health.
Oral Dental Appliances for Sleep Apnea
Some individuals cannot tolerate the CPAP machine. Those with mild to moderate sleep apnea may not need a CPAP device, and a dental appliance may be recommended instead. Occasionally, both are used in order to reduce the pressure needed to keep the airway open.
The two basic types of dental appliances are the mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and the tongue retaining mouthpieces. After a thorough sleep study, you will be advised on the best method for treatment of your sleep apnea.
MADs look very similar to the mouthguards used in sports. They fit over both lower and upper teeth and are connected by a hinge. The lower jaw and tongue are pushed forward slightly by the appliance. This keeps the throat muscles from collapsing into the airway. The dentist makes adjustments as needed for optimal performance of the device.
The tongue retaining mouthpieces differ from the MADs in that they have a small compartment that fits around the tongue. Using suction, the tongue is held in a forward position and prevented from relaxing back into the airway. Tongue retaining devices are usually designed for the patient who is unable to have the jaw moved forward.
If you suffer from a sleep disorder, make an appointment with Marietta Sleep for a full sleep study. We can help you get a restful night’s sleep again.