Sleep apnea is a common, disruptive sleep disorder that affects about 20 million adults in the United States. The condition causes breathing interruptions throughout the night and can cause sleep deprivation, irritability, and even depression. Over time, untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and other serious cardiac problems.
There are two forms of sleep apnea – obstructive and central. Obstructive is the most common form and occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses during sleep. This blockage can disrupt normal breathing patterns, leading to loud snoring or gasping for air. Central sleep apnea is less common and can be more difficult to treat. Found in only about 5 percent of the cases of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to signal the muscles that control your airway to stay open while you sleep.
Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for sleep apnea.
Using a pressurized air device, sleep apnea therapy in the form of CPAP provides a steady stream of air pressure to keep the upper airway open throughout the night. This treatment delivers the greatest success rate in alleviating sleep apnea symptoms in patients. However, many patients find the mask that covers the nose and mouth to be uncomfortable to wear during sleep. Also, the nightly use of the machine can be inconvenient for those that travel frequently or want to leave the device at home while sleeping over at a friend's house. If you are having difficulty with obstructed breathing at night, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss possible treatment options for sleep apnea.
Patients often ask about oral appliances to treat their sleep apnea. If you are a candidate, an oral appliance can be a great solution for mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea. The device looks similar to a retainer or mouth guard and works by moving your jaw forward slightly to keep the airway open during sleep. They are available in all standard sizes, so most are adjustable to fit your mouth comfortably. The mouthpiece is worn at night and can be easily removed for eating and cleaning. It can be a great alternative for patients with mild apnea who find CPAP difficult to use. However, some patients find the device uncomfortable to wear long-term. Your dentist can evaluate you to see if you're a good candidate for an oral appliance.
Please get in touch with us through online consultation or by calling us at (205) 875-4650, and we'll guide you further.