People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates more than 12 million Americans are suffocating in their sleep due to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Most cases remain undiagnosed and contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, and traffic accidents caused by drowsy driving.
Dentistry serves a vital role in treating this under-diagnosed epidemic. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends oral appliances as a first line therapy for the treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea and for patients with severe sleep apnea whose CPAP treatment has failed.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?
Apnea literally means “cessation of breath.” If you have sleep apnea, your breath can become very shallow or you may even stop breathing while you are asleep.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common form of apnea. OSA is characterized by a partial or complete collapse of the upper airway that causes muscles controlling the soft palate and tongue to relax, effectively closing the airway.
OSA is typically diagnosed using a polysomnogram or “sleep study.” During a sleep study, a sleep physician monitors brain activity and body system functioning while a patient rests overnight at a sleep clinic. The sleep physician evaluates the data collected during the sleep study to diagnose sleep disorders and recommend treatment. A dentist trained in sleep medicine works together with sleep physicians to treat obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy.
How can an oral appliance treat snoring & breathing?
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea can be treated with surgery, CPAP or BiPAP machines, or oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy is the least invasive treatment and is a first line of treatment for mild to moderate OSA. It involves the selection, fitting, and use of an appliance to hold the jaw forward and maintain an open airway in the throat during sleep.
From one of our patients:
I wanted to tell everyone how great the new dental device is for helping with sleep apnea. I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea and they told me the only thing I could use was a CPAP machine. I tried every type of nose piece that was made for CPAP machines. After six months trying to make the CPAP work, I gave up. I was getting much less sleep while using the CPAP. I talked to Dr. Bragg about it and she mentioned this mouthpiece. I did the sleep study and I told the technician that I was not a candidate for a CPAP machine and that I was looking for an alternative. The technician discussed it with my insurance and got me qualified. When you first get the mouth pieces, you need to allow three months to get the perfect fix and size. Patience is the key. I do have to wear a T-shirt with tennis balls attached to the back so I do not sleep on my back. The mouth piece along with the t-shirt makes me sleep like a baby. I highly recommend these mouth pieces. They were a life saver for me.