There are over 30 million people suffering from sleep apnea in the US. The lack of sleep can cause irritability, lack of focus, and concentration. If the problem persists, you may face many health risks, some potentially dangerous.

Knowing what options are available to you can help you to treat sleep apnea or eliminate it entirely. Keep reading to learn more about obstructive sleep apnea, sleep apnea therapy, and how a dentist can help.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interferes with your breathing. It causes you to stop breathing several times during the night. If sleep apnea is untreated, you may experience loud snoring, feeling tired during the day, or high blood pressure and heart problems.

You may develop obstructive, central, or mixed sleep apnea. However, most people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.  

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) happens when the upper airway is either partially or completely blocked during sleep. As the pressure increase to open your airway, your chest muscles and the diaphragm need to work harder. An OSA episode disturbs your sleep cycles, less oxygen is delivered to vital organs, and your heart rhythm is compromised.

The second most common type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea manifests due to the instability of the respiratory control center and dysfunction of the central nervous system. During a central sleep apnea episode, the brain does not send signals to muscles to breathe.

Mixed sleep apnea, as the name suggests, combines the two other types.

The Cause of Sleep Apnea

OSA develops when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses due to the blockage in the airway. It can happen due to excessive weight or structural abnormalities in the upper airway, nasal obstruction, or a small jaw with an overbite.

Obstructive sleep apnea is mostly diagnosed in men. However, around 10 percent of women also suffer from this condition.

Central sleep apnea is affected by irregularities in the central nervous system, and anyone who has had a stroke can suffer from it. In addition, if you have cardiac disease or heart failure, you may develop central sleep apnea.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea episodes interrupt your normal sleep cycle. You may keep waking up during the night and not be able to get enough sleep.

The most common symptom of sleep apnea is daytime fatigue. Other symptoms of OSA are:

  • Snoring
  • Restlessness during sleep
  • Sensations of gasping or choking
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Mood swings

Sleep apnea is a serious condition and should not be left untreated. OSA can cause a number of health disorders, such as arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

The most common recommendation to treat sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. However, if this is not an option, you may need to consider an alternative sleep apnea treatment.

If you suffer from mild to moderate OSA and do not have weight issues, a dentist can recommend oral appliance therapy.

Oral appliance therapy uses dental appliances and oral mandibular devices to help keep the airway open during sleep and your tongue from sliding back.

The two most common devices used in oral appliance therapy are mandibular repositioning devices and tongue retaining devices. Of course, those pieces are removable, and you wear them during sleep.

Mandibular repositioning devices help to keep your airway open by pushing your lower jaw forward. Tongue retaining devices help to keep your tongue in place, preventing it from blocking the airway.

Speak with your dentist to ensure if oral appliance therapy is for you. Your trusted dentist can also recommend which one suits you better based on an assessment of your teeth, mouth, and temporomandibular joints. Once a device is selected, a model of your teeth is created.

Oral appliances need to fit you perfectly because any incorrectly fitted appliance can damage your jaw.

Oral Appliance Therapy Benefits

Oral appliances can help to strengthen your airway over time so that they can either reduce sleep apnea or eliminate it. They are also affordable. Adjustable models will cost more, however, they are still a cheaper option than the CPAP machine.

In addition, oral appliances are portable, so you can take them while traveling. You don’t need electricity, and there is no sound in operating them.

The biggest complaint about oral appliances is that it is hard to get used to them. Wearing oral appliance devices may feel uncomfortable at first, but you will most likely adjust within a few days. If you experience pains and aches, it is best to check with your dentist in case your device needs adjustment.

If you struggle with oral appliances, wearing the CPAP machine won’t be any easier.

Although using oral devices is safe, there are a few potential risks, such as:

  • Pain in the jaw and teeth
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Drooling
  • Dental work replacement

How to Get Started With Sleep Apnea Therapy

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that interrupts your breathing. If left untreated, it can cause serious health risks. Daytime sleeplessness, fatigue, irritability, or respiratory and cardiac problems are all possibilities.

The most recommended type of sleep apnea therapy is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. However, an alternative gaining in popularity is oral appliance therapy.

It is safer and more affordable, and it is highly effective. Schedule a call with us today to see how we can help you with sleep apnea.