Good News for Sleep Apnea Patients
A Better Night’s Sleep
In the United States, over 18 million adults suffer from sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that happens when a person’s breathing is interrupted or stopped during sleep, depriving the brain and other organs of the oxygen they need. Many sleep apnea patients have a tough time getting a quality night’s sleep, and they tend to snore making it harder for their spouse or partner to get enough rest as well.
The typical treatment has been to use a CPAP machine, but many people find this treatment cumbersome and uncomfortable. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy uses a machine that blows oxygen into the mouth and keeps the throat open. Patients wear a mask while sleeping. If they have to get up in the middle of the night, they have to disconnect and then re-connect the machine. It’s also difficult to clean and maintain.
The good news is an alternative treatment is now available: The use of an oral appliance or mandibular advancement device. This has become a popular alternative in recent years. Oral appliances are custom-fitted, mouth guard-like devices that fit over the teeth and position the jaw forward, opening the airway and allowing for unobstructed natural breathing.
“Oral appliances are more comfortable than using a CPAP machine. They are quiet, portable, simple to wear, and much easier to clean,” said Dr. Brigitte Lovell, a dentist at Community Memorial Health System who specializes in headache relief, orofacial pain management, and dental sleep medicine. “Oral appliances are also non-invasive, adjustable, and removable. They stabilize the tongue and reposition the jaw forward so that air can flow normally and help reduce or eliminate snoring.”
Dr. Lovell cautions that while sleep apnea oral appliances can be purchased over-the-counter, those devices are not custom fitted and are suboptimal. It’s best to consult a specialist in sleep medicine when considering an oral appliance for sleep apnea.