If you can’t sleep through the night due to sleep apnea or you keep others awake because of it, chances are you’ve been to the doctor and may have even tried a CPAP machine. For many people, these machines are ineffective, leaving them right where they started. But, there are other forms of therapy that can help. There are dental services and oral appliances that can treat sleep apnea sufferers. Many people may be unaware that these types of devices even exist, as the CPAP machine is usually the first go-to treatment. However, more and more are turning to dental devices for sleep apnea treatment.
There have been studies that have shown that dental services in the form of oral devices can help people treat their sleep apnea. Let’s take a look at those devices and what leads people to seek treatment.
If you know someone who deals with sleep apnea, you know it goes well beyond some noisy snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition that happens when the muscles in the throat relax when someone is sleeping. This blocks the flow of air and the sleeper can stop breathing for periods of ten seconds or longer as oxygen levels drop. As you can imagine, this is not only dangerous but also interferes with a person’s quality of sleep.
Many people are diagnosed with sleep apnea after undergoing a sleep study. They are often advised to use a CPAP machine that comes with a mask they wear while sleeping. The machine gently blows pressurized air through the airways at a constant pressure to keep the throat from closing. These machines can be uncomfortable to use, leaving the patient to abandon it while still dealing with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is also known to increase blood pressure and has been linked to a number of other cardiovascular problems.
When CPAP machines don’t get the job done, patients often seek other treatment. This can come in the form of oral appliances that are used under the direction of a qualified dentist trained in dental sleep medicine.
Sleep apnea oral devices include a Jaw Advancing Device or Mandibular Advancement Device. These are custom-made by a dentist for the patient to stop sleep apnea as well as snoring. It consists of a plastic-like mold that is formed to the patient’s specific shape and mouth.
They are effective because they move the jaw forward which helps to increase the size of the upper airway, allowing for better breathing. This reduces the air resistance that can lead to snoring and sleep apnea. These types of devices are often most effective in patients who have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
There are also tongue retaining mouthpieces which are similar to the Mandibular Advancement Device but have a small piece that fits around the tongue, using suction to keep it held forward. This prevents it from obstructing the airway. These types of devices are mostly used in patients who cannot use the other oral devices.
It’s important to note that these types of dental devices are only effective in mild to moderate cases. Patients with severe sleep apnea may have to use other types of therapy to see relief. Generally speaking, the following types of patients can qualify for a dental device:
A medical professional can review your specific symptoms and concerns and let you know if you are a candidate for a dental device based on the outcome of your sleep study.
Besides helping a patient avoid sleep apnea oral surgery, there are other benefits for patients who choose to use these devices.
Many patients report improvement after using an oral device the first night
Unlike CPAP machines, oral devices do not make noise and don’t need to be plugged in to function.
You can easily take them with you if you are traveling as they fit right in your pocket.
While you may find many online sites selling these types of oral appliances, you want to make sure to see a licensed physician to get one. Many of the devices sold online are ineffective and can harm your mouth and teeth. The average cost of a sleep apnea mouth guard is typically $1,800-$2,000. Medicare and some health insurance companies may cover part or possibly all of the cost. It’s best to check with your particular plan to see what’s covered.
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and are looking for relief, contact Dr. Mark Levy. Dr. Levy has been prescribing dental devices for sleep apnea treatment since 2005. He is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine as well as the Academy of Clinical Sleep Disorders Disciplines. Dr. Levy has completed hundreds of hours of continuing education and is highly experienced in his field.