Sleep apnea is a common, but serious problem that affects many people. Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted while they sleep. The interruption might be short, but it can happen hundreds of times in one night and cause the brain and body to receive insufficient oxygen.
In this article, we’ll discuss the causes and symptoms of sleep apnea, as well as compare two different treatments: Oral appliance therapy and CPAP. In the end, we’ll explain why we recommend oral appliance therapy over CPAP machine.
What causes sleep apnea?
The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is caused by a blockage of the airway. Typically, this blockage is the result of soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing during sleep.
Certain people are at greater risk for sleep apnea than others. If any of the following apply to you, it will increase your odds of experiencing sleep apnea:
- If you are male
- If you are over the age of 40
- If you have a family history of sleep apnea
- If you are overweight
- If you have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- If you have a large neck size
- If you have large tonsils
- If you have a large tongue or a small jaw bone
- If you have nasal obstruction due to allergies or sinus problems
What are the effects of sleep apnea?
If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause a range of serious health issues that get worse over time. These include:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up gasping for air
- Poor nights of sleep and fatigue
- Poor performance in everyday tasks like driving, working or caring for children
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks
Treating sleep apnea with CPAP
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP therapy uses a machine to increase the air pressure in your throat so that it doesn’t collapse when you sleep. The machine is connected to a mask and the mask must be worn all night.
Pros of CPAP:
- CPAP therapy is effective at preventing sleep apnea
- Patients who use CPAP correctly experience better sleep and less drowsiness
- Patients who use CPAP correctly have healthier hearts and better blood pressure
Cons of CPAP:
- It is big and bulky, making it difficult to transport during travel
- It makes noise all night
- Requires electricity to work
- Can be very uncomfortable, especially when first being used
- You cannot speak or drink once you begin wearing it
Although CPAP works, because it is bulky and inconvenient, we find that many patients do not use it consistently or correctly. In fact, research indicates that only 50 percent of CPAP users actually use it every night. If you’re struggling with your CPAP, then we recommend you speak to your doctor about getting it adjusted or trying Oral Appliance therapy.
Treating sleep apnea with Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) is a newer form of therapy for sleep apnea than CPAP, and it is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It is an appliance that patients wear during sleep that fits like a mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. This appliance pushes the jaw forward to help maintain an open upper airway during sleep. Research and time have demonstrated that it is an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
Pros of Oral Appliance Therapy:
- It is effective at preventing sleep apnea
- It is small and easy to transport – it can even fit in your pocket
- It does not require power
- It is comfortable and allows you to speak and drink while wearing it
- It is easy to use consistently
Cons of Oral Appliance therapy:
- It doesn’t always work for severe cases of sleep apnea
- It could lead to a sore jaw, but this can usually be fixed by your dentist
As you can see, oral appliance therapy provides a far more comfortable and convenient method for treating sleep apnea. For this reason, we strongly recommend it for patients looking to improve their sleep. It should be the first line of defense.
How to start Oral Appliance Therapy
If you haven’t already, speak to your dentist about starting oral appliance therapy. If you’re located near the John’s Creek, GA area and looking for a dentist with experience and expertise in treating sleep apnea, then look no further than Dr. Forester at Lifetime Smiles.
We will work with your physician and conduct an examination of your mouth and jaw to understand your needs and determine what type of oral appliance you need. Each appliance is custom-made to fit your mouth, and once provided we’ll make sure it is comfortable and will keep your airway open. Although you can order appliances over the internet, they do not work because they are not customized for your needs.
Our goal is to restore your nights of sleep. We will help reduce your snoring and increase the time you spend asleep. Imagine how life will be different when you feel rested! Contact us today to schedule an appointment so we can get started.