When patients get a diagnosis of sleep apnea, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP, is often the first recommended treatment option. While this form of sleep apnea treatment is ideal for individuals with moderate to severe sleep apnea, CPAP comes with its own set of disadvantages. For patients who find CPAP difficult to comply with, oral appliances are the next alternative. However, many patients considering oral appliance therapy have their own questions about how this small device is able to improve their quality of sleep.
What Causes Obstruction?
In patients with obstructive sleep apnea, blockage of the airway is caused when the soft tissues of the throat and tongue muscles relax into the trachea as patients sleep. While this doesn’t completely block airflow, the collapse of soft tissue restricts the airway to the point that blood oxygenation levels drop. These episodes not only suppress your body’s ability to get enough oxygen, they can occur multiple times throughout the night. It is not uncommon for patients with moderate OSA to experience 15-30 episodes in an hour.
How CPAP Prevents Obstruction
In order to treat sleep apnea, CPAP uses a machine and nose mask to continuously push air into the airways by increasing the air pressure in the mouth. This prevents the obstructive tissue from blocking airflow as you sleep. While this may work for some patients, others find the machine invasive and difficult to sleep with. As a result, CPAP has a high non-compliance rate, with one study estimating that 15% of patients stop using the treatment after about 10 months.
Given the rates of CPAP non-compliance, oral appliances have become an effective alternative for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Part of this is a result of how oral appliances tackle obstruction.
How Mandibular Advancement Devices Work
Rather than relying on a machine to push air into the mouth, mandibular advancement devices gently push the lower jaw forward. This prevents the soft tissue from collapsing and moves the tongue forward, increasing the size of the upper airway.
Not only do oral appliances for sleep apnea eliminate the need for a bulky and distracting machine, they are uniquely made to fit each smile. As a result, oral appliances are made while considering all other aspects of the mouth, including the jaw joint. In order to reach the best fit, the process of fitting the appliance to your mouth is completed over the course of several months. Known as titration, our Mebane dentist will gradually tighten and re-fit your oral appliance to ensure it fits correctly and effectively.
Get a Better Night’s Sleep – Visit Integrative Family Dentistry Today
Since opening our practice, Integrative Family Dentistry has helped patients from Mebane, Burlington, and Hillsborough achieve a better night’s rest by fitting them with a custom-made oral appliance. If you or a loved one has received a diagnosis of sleep apnea, call Dr. Mensah and his team today to schedule a consultation and explore your treatment options.