According to statistics, over 12 million Americans experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Many of them are unaware that they have it, which puts them at risk for multiple other concerning health conditions. It’s important to recognize the potential for and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea so treatment can be sought early, before health is significantly affected.
At Schmitt Dental, we help patients navigate their health when dealing with obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Schmitt has considerable training and experience treating OSA using proven oral appliance therapy. With over 100 appliances in circulation at any given time, it’s advantageous to consult a dentist who is familiar with how each works. To schedule a consultation, contact one of our six convenient locations today!
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
There are a few different types of sleep apnea. Each of them involves repeated interruptions in breathing when you sleep. In obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of this sleep disorder, the interruptions are caused by some type of physical block to airflow. Usually, what happens is that the muscles relax around the airway to such an extent that their weight stops airflow. Another structural reason for obstructive sleep apnea is the tongue. When relaxed, the tongue can slip back far enough to block the back of the throat.
The interruptions in breathing may last only a few seconds or they may last many seconds. However, you may never fully wake when the body sends a jolt of stress hormones to restart breathing. You may know that you snore, but know little else beyond that as it relates to the potential severity of your condition. Aside from snoring, it’s the other signs of obstructive sleep apnea that may prompt you to seek help from your doctor or dentist.
What Is Oral Appliance Therapy For OSA?
The medical standard of care for obstructive sleep apnea is to prescribe CPAP therapy. At Schmitt Dental, you can explore the benefits of oral appliance therapy. This form of treatment works by shifting the lower jaw forward so, when you sleep, the tongue and other nearby soft tissues cannot drift back to the throat.
Oral appliance therapy requires that you insert a mouthguard-like appliance each night before you go to sleep. This appliance can be removed, but you might not find that necessary. You can take sips of water if needed, and the custom fit should make it very comfortable to wear.
Is Oral Appliance Therapy Better than CPAP Therapy?
Several studies have been conducted on the efficacy of CPAP therapy and, separately, oral appliance therapy. Research has also involved a close side-by-side observation to better understand how one compares to the other. In one 5-year study, researchers found that patients who used oral appliance therapy had comparable reductions in the risk of fatal cardiovascular events as those who used CPAP therapy. Interestingly, oral appliance therapy on its own typically does not compare to the overall efficacy of CPAP therapy. The comparison equalizes primarily because patients treated with oral appliances are typically much more compliant with their treatment than those prescribed CPAP. This is easy to understand because oral appliances are much more convenient and comfortable than the medical alternative.