There are three different kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and mixed.
When you breathe normally, air passes through the nose and past the flexible structures, such as the soft palate, uvula and tongue, in the back of your throat. When you are awake, your muscles hold this airway open. When you are asleep, these muscles relax and the airway usually stays open. Yet, in the case of obstructive sleep apnea the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat blocking both the upper airway and airflow. This causes the oxygen levels in the both in the brain and the blood to lower. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is often seen in people with cardiovascular problems and excessive daytime sleepiness. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, memory problems, weight gain, impotency and headaches. If left untreated, it may be responsible for motor vehicle crashes and job impairment. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and effectively treated. There are several treatment options now available and research into other treatment methods continues.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
There are several ways to treat sleep apnea. The most common method is with a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machine. Using a tube and a mask that covers the nose, the pressure generated by the CPAP splints the structures in the back of the throat holding the airway open during sleep.
Another option is surgery. By repositioning the anatomic structure of your mouth and facial bones, surgeons are able to eliminate the tissue that collapses during sleep.
Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, dentists with training in oral appliance therapy can determine which appliance is best suited for your specific dental and medical condition. Working in coordination with your physician, your dentist will participate in your diagnosis, treatment and on-going care. Follow-up care with your dentist, in order to evaluate the response of your teeth and jaws, will ensure a successful treatment.
Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea
With over 40 different types of oral appliances available to specially trained dentists, there are essentially two different categories in which they can be classified: tongue retaining appliances and mandibular repositioning appliances.
The advantages of oral appliances over other forms of therapy are as follows:
- Oral appliances are comfortable and easy to wear. It does take a few weeks, however, to become used to wearing the device.
- Oral appliances are small and convenient. You can take them with you when you travel.
- Oral appliances are non-invasive therapy.