Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition that can severely affect your quality of life. When you have obstructive sleep apnea, you periodically stop breathing during the night. When the muscles in your throat relax during sleep, they completely block off your upper airway. In response, your brain signals you to wake up and take a deep breath, opening your airway again and allowing you to breathe.
Unfortunately, these periodic nighttime awakenings don't let you get all the sleep that you need. As a result, people with obstructive sleep apnea often feel extremely tired during the day. Additionally, untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to further health problems such as hypertension.
The usual treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine when you sleep at night. The pressure provided by the CPAP machine helps to keep your airway open. Unfortunately, many people find that they can't tolerate wearing a CPAP mask when they're trying to fall asleep. Thankfully, a sleep apnea oral appliance can help alleviate your obstructive sleep apnea without the use of a CPAP machine. If you're having trouble using your CPAP machine at night, read on to learn more about how a sleep apnea oral appliance can help.
What Is a Sleep Apnea Oral Appliance?
Oral appliances for sleep apnea are fitted by a dentist with sleep medicine training, and they come in two forms. One form is the mandible advancement device, which looks similar to a retainer. You place the mandible advancement device in your mouth while you sleep, and it gently pushes your jaw forwards. Pushing your jaw forwards opens your upper airway slightly, which helps to prevent it from becoming completely obstructed when your muscles relax during sleep.
Another sleep apnea oral appliance is the tongue retaining mouthpiece, which looks similar to a mouth guard with a sphere on one end. Before you go to sleep, you place the tongue retaining mouthpiece into your mouth and insert your tongue into the spherical end. Your tongue is held in the mouthpiece via suction. This prevents your tongue from blocking your airway during the night.
What Are the Advantages of Using an Oral Appliance Instead of a CPAP Machine?
One of the biggest advantages of using a sleep apnea oral appliance instead of using a CPAP machine is that there's no need to force air into your airway while you sleep. Wearing a CPAP mask can be uncomfortable due to the pressurized air constantly entering your airway, especially if you require a high pressure setting to treat your sleep apnea.
Additionally, oral appliances are more portable and they're easier to keep clean compared to a CPAP machine. Traveling is much more convenient when you're using an oral appliance to treat your sleep apnea since you only have to take the singular oral appliance with you instead of all the components of your CPAP machine. You also won't have to hope that your hotel room has a power outlet near the bed, since CPAP machines require power to operate.
How Do You Get a Sleep Apnea Oral Appliance?
If you think that an oral appliance would be preferable to using a CPAP machine to treat your sleep apnea, talk to a dentist that is trained in sleep medicine. The dentist will examine your teeth, gums, and airway to determine which sleep apnea oral appliance would suit you the best. Afterward, the dentist will take an impression of your teeth and send it to a laboratory so that a custom-made sleep apnea oral appliance can be created.
Once you have your oral appliance, it's a good idea to undergo a sleep study to ensure that it's working correctly for you. Every year, you'll need to visit your dentist to make sure that your oral appliance still perfectly fits your mouth. However, this is still much more convenient than using a CPAP machine—you don't have to worry about purchasing more CPAP supplies or cleaning products. All you need to do is to attend your scheduled annual visits with the dentist and make sure that you wear your sleep apnea oral appliance every night.
For more information on sleep apnea oral appliance therapy, reach out to a local dentist.