Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that disrupts sleep by causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. Symptoms of the disorder include snoring, feeling sleepy during the daytime, and waking up during the night with shortness of breath. This disorder leaves the brain and body without adequate oxygen, and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and poor performance and concentration in various areas of life.
Oral appliances are a great way to treat sleep apnea. They are worn in the mouth during sleep, and function to help the tongue from collapsing. This helps keep the airway open to promote maximal oxygen intake during sleep. The oral appliance is personalized to fit the patient’s mouth, and they are custom-made. The appliance essentially repositions the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, and uvula, and also stabilizes and increases muscle tone of the tongue.
There are several types of oral appliances, a tongue retaining appliance or a mandibular repositioning appliance. The tongue retaining appliance holds the tongue forward with a suction bulb to keep it from obstructing the airway when the patient sleeps. The mandibular repositioning appliance protrudes the lower jaw during sleep and helps it maintain that position throughout the night. This helps indirectly pull the tongue forward, which functions to open the airway.
Oral appliances have many benefits in treating sleep apnea. They are comfortable since they are custom-made, and they are easy to wear. They are not bulky and can be stored and transported easily, and the treatment can be accomplished at home. These devices are much more effective than ones sold over-the-counter, because they are personalized to fit the patient’s needs and anatomy.
Oral appliances have proven effectiveness, and have been shown to control sleep apnea in as much as half of patients, even those with severe forms of the disorder. While CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is another option for care of sleep apnea, it creates noise and involves wearing a mask. They are the most unobtrusive and least costly way to get effective care for sleep apnea.