Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep and can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease and mood and memory problems. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of drowsy driving.
Who Has Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Nearly 30 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which can cause them to stop breathing hundreds of times a night for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing soft tissue to collapse and block the airway. As a result, repeated breathing pauses occur, which often reduce your oxygen levels. These breathing pauses are followed by brief awakenings that disturb your sleep. Common signs of sleep apnea include snoring and gasping or choking sounds during sleep. Like snoring, sleep apnea is more common in men, but it can occur in women too, especially during and after menopause. Having excess body weight, a narrow airway or misaligned jaw all increase the risk of sleep apnea.
Is Treating OSA Important?
Treating obstructive sleep apnea is incredibly important to your health. When left untreated, sleep apnea often causes excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, as well as morning headaches and memory loss. Sleep apnea also is a threat to your safety as it increases your risk of drowsy driving and workplace accidents. Untreated sleep apnea raises your risk for serious health problems. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Chronic acid reflux
- Erectile dysfunction
Severe, untreated sleep apnea even increases your risk of death.
How is OSA Treated?
Your dentist or sleep doctor will discuss treatment options with you. These options include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliance therapy and surgery.
- CPAP therapy involves wearing a face mask connected by tubing to a constantly running machine.
- Oral appliance therapy uses a mouth guard-like device – worn only during sleep – to maintain an open, unobstructed airway.
- Surgical options include a variety of procedures. All have varying side effects and rates of success.
Research shows that oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. An oral appliance is worn in the mouth only while you sleep and fits like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Oral appliances support your jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway. Many patients consider a sleep apnea appliance to be more comfortable to wear than a CPAP mask. Oral appliances also are quiet, portable and easy to care for.
What to Expect
What to expect on your visits.
- Visit 1
At your first visit, Dr. Duffy will talk to you about the benefits of treatment. You also will receive information on the potential side effects and the cost of therapy. Dr. Duffy will also conduct a complete clinical evaluation. This will include an examination of your teeth, jaw, tongue and airway, and possibly a new X-ray of your mouth.
- Visit 2
Oral appliances are customized using digital or physical impressions and models of your teeth. These models are sent to a dental lab where the appliance is made. Once your oral appliance is ready, you will return to Live Oak Dental for a fitting. Dr. Duffy will adjust the appliance to maximize its comfort and effectiveness. You also will learn how to clean the oral appliance and maintain it. After this fitting, your sleep doctor may schedule you for a sleep study to verify treatment success.
- Follow-Up Visits
Follow-up visits with Live Oak Dental will be needed to ensure the optimal fit of the oral appliance. Effective oral appliances are always custom fit and adjusted over time to ensure maximum effectiveness. Your dentist also will schedule you for an annual assessment. These routine visits are an important part of your long-term treatment success.
Living with Oral Appliance Therapy
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