What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder and a very serious medical condition. It is characterized by pauses and interruptions in breathing. These pauses can occur as many as 40 times in a single minute, and in some cases, the pauses can last for up to a minute.
How common is sleep apnea?
It is estimated that as many as 15 million people suffer from sleep apnea. Many people with this condition are unaware that they have it and wake feeling as if they have received little or no sleep because they have spent the night fighting to breathe normally and receive needed oxygen.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
Sleep apnea needs to be diagnosed by a sleep physician. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, we recommend contacting your regular physician. They can refer you to a specialist and help you make arrangements to participate in a sleep study to diagnose the problem and determine how severe your sleep apnea is.
What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?
Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
How is sleep apnea treated?
The two most common treatments for sleep apnea are CPAP machines and oral appliance therapy. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is a machine that sits beside your bed and blows air through an attachable mask to keep your airways open and help you breathe easily. While CPAP is the gold standard in sleep apnea treatment and can provide outstanding long-term results, many people find that they cannot tolerate this treatment and receive oral appliance therapy as an alternative. Oral appliances are designed to fit comfortably and help keep your airways open while asleep so that you can breathe normally. In severe cases, surgical procedures may be recommended to treat sleep apnea.
What happens if sleep apnea is untreated?
Sleep apnea is linked to a number of other medical issues, as well as lifestyle risks. These include:
What should I do if I think I might have sleep apnea?
Contact our office. Our dentist will work with you, your physician and any necessary sleep physicians to diagnose the problem and provide you with the treatments you need. Our highest priority is improving your health and quality of life.
Will my insurance cover treatment for sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea treatments are often covered by most medical insurance providers and Medicare. Your dental insurance provider will not provide coverage, as sleep apnea is considered a medical condition. We recommend checking with your insurance to verify your coverage.
How does oral appliance therapy work?
Oral appliance therapy works by gently repositioning the lower jaw into a slightly forward position. This moves the tongue forward and tightens the soft tissues of the throat, keeping the airway open and creating better muscle tone in the area so that you can breathe naturally and easily.
Who is a good candidate for oral appliance therapy?
Oral appliance therapy is a good option for people who suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnea. Candidates for oral appliance include:
Is oral appliance therapy comfortable?
Yes. Oral appliances are designed to be comfortable and noninvasive.
Is it hard to adjust to wearing an oral appliance?
No. Using an oral appliance is similar to using an orthodontic retainer. You should be able to adjust to wearing the appliance without difficulty.
Are there any health concerns associated with wearing an oral appliance?
Oral appliances work by positioning your jaw slightly forward. Because of this, it is important that you receive care from a trained and qualified doctor. Your bite, gums and jaw joint will all need to be carefully evaluated and taken into account to ensure that your appliance fits and functions properly and does not cause any problems for other aspects of your oral or overall health.
Will my snoring go away?
Over time, your snoring should gradually diminish as your sleep apnea is treated.
I have a CPAP machine already. Will an oral appliance still work for me?
If you have a CPAP machine and can comfortably and consistently use it, we recommend that you continue to do so. CPAP is the gold standard in sleep apnea treatment and can provide you with excellent long-term results. However, if you do not use your CPAP machine regularly or cannot tolerate using it, then an oral appliance is a good alternative. Please schedule a consultation with our dentist to determine if oral appliance therapy is a good option for you.
I am happy with my CPAP machine but find it hard to travel with. Should I give it up?
No. If your CPAP is effective and you are happy with it, you should continue to use it. However, you can also receive an oral appliance to use when you are traveling. This will help you avoid the hassle of bringing your CPAP machine with you while also giving you the care you need to breathe easily at night.
I see ads for less expensive oral appliances. Can I use one of those instead?
Absolutely not. We strongly recommend that you do not use any oral appliances or gadgets that you see advertised “over the counter.” Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition and requires treatment from a sleep physician. If you are receiving an oral appliance, you will need to seek treatment from a doctor trained in providing this appliance. The effectiveness of your oral appliance will also need to be monitored, and the appliance itself may require adjustments from time to time to ensure that it is functioning properly and providing you with the best results.