The use of dental devices is on the rise. One contributing factor is that it is more comfortable than CPAP. Before delving into the intricacies of oral devices used in treating Sleep Apnea, here is a short recap on what sleep apnea is and how it affects your sleep and health.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious sleeping disorder that occurs when a person ceases occasionally breathing throughout the night due to physical impediments of the airway. The occasional stops in breathing can last for ten seconds and are sometimes followed by gasps or choking sounds as the person’s body struggles to resume breathing again.
Sleep apnea becomes evident when the muscles around your mouth and throat relax during sleep to the point where they fall back into the upper airway and block the flow of oxygen from coming. In a situation where breathing stops at night, the brain responds by partly becoming conscious of transmitting signals to the respiratory system to work harder to get past the obstruction.
The severity of one’s sleep apnea can be determined by the number of apnea events (pauses in breathing) the person has per hour.
Mild Obstructive Sleep apnea– a person is said to have mild obstructive sleep apnea when he or she experiences 5-14 episodes of interruptions in breathing in an hour.
Moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea- when someone constantly has 15-30 episodes of interruptions in breathing per hour, the person is said to have a moderate obstructive sleep disorder.
Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea – This is the most extreme type of sleep apnea. Someone with severe Obstructive sleep apnea is known to have more than 30 apneas per hour.
Depending on the severity of obstructive sleep apnea, it is important to know that recent studies have attributed 60% of underlying causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea to environmental and lifestyle related, while 40% relates to hereditary.
In treating sleep apnea, oral devices are used. The most common treatment professionals recommend is CPAP therapy as a first treatment option; mouth appliances and specially designed pillows are also recommended.
Other oral treatments include a Mandibular Repositioning device and a Tongue Retaining device. These devices open your airway by bringing your lower jaw forward during sleep and are the most reasonable alternative to continuous positive airway pressure and help to improve sleep quality and reduce daytime sleepiness.
An oral breathing device must be used every night. The situation of excess saliva in the mouth and mild discomfort would become less bothersome with regular use.
How Oral Devices Work To Keep Your Airway Open
Have you ever wondered how oral devices work? They work just like retainers by clamping onto the upper and lower teeth. Using a piston and tube, the upper and lower portions of the devices are connected, and this lets the jaw open a bit farther. As the muscles relax in a deep sleep, the tubes bottom out, and your chin is kept forward so the tongue can’t block the airway.
Benefits Of Dental Devices
Dental devices are said to be more comfortable and tolerable to wear as opposed to CPAP masks.
People using CPAP often complain of dry and itchy noses since the air pressure dries out their sinuses, but people who use oral devices seldom have these issues. Some of the issues people experience using CPAP but don’t encounter when using dental devices include:
- Accumulation of saliva in the mouth
- Discomfort, especially in the morning. This forces most people to stop using them
- Increased chance of damaging the teeth, the soft tissues in the mouth, and the jaw joints.
Treating Obstructive sleep apnea cannot be done using a home remedy. Getting drugs over the counter might sound like a better option, but it is not recommended since it can complicate sleep apnea.
Also, there are people who opt for oral devices without consulting a dentist. The fact is, the symptoms might go away, but it comes with some complications as treating a symptom is not the same as treating the root cause – sleep apnea.
Compared to Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), which is the standard surgical procedure for sleep apnea, where the surgeon removes soft tissue from the back of the throat, dental devices still had a higher success rate for treating sleep apnea.
This doesn’t mean other approaches to treating sleep apnea should be sidelined. The best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea depends on several factors, including the severity of the sleep apnea, the upper airway’s physical structure, and other medical problems.
In line with your personal preference, you should work with a dentist with a proven track record of success.