Sleep apnea is a medical condition that goes well beyond some sleepless nights due to snoring. Statistics show it’s a problem that affects nearly 22 million Americans. Eighty percent of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed. So, if they are not diagnosed, they are obviously not being treated, which can lead to serious issues. But now, treatment is easier than ever. Customized mouthpieces help with sleep apnea treatment in a comfortable and effective way.
Let’s take a look at sleep apnea, how it’s diagnosed and what can be done to treat it.
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 because it affects breathing, but also interferes with a person’s quality of sleep.
Many people are diagnosed with sleep apnea after undergoing a sleep study. During the sleep study, the patient spends the night at a sleep laboratory where they are monitored. Blood oxygen levels, respiration rate, brain-wave activity, leg movements, and how many partial inhalations are taken each hour are all tested.
Depending on the results of the sleep study, a patient may be diagnosed with sleep apnea. If they are, 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. That is why finding appropriate and effective treatment for sleep apnea is so important.
Some patients, who don’t have success with a CPAP machine or want to try other therapies in conjunction with it, will try mouthpieces. Many people don’t realize that mouthpieces can help with sleep apnea treatment. They work basically the same way as a CPAP machine, just without the mask and need for an outlet. These custom-made mouthpieces are worn while the patient is sleeping. They help to move the lower jaw back to a comfortable position, allowing the tissues at the back of the throat to relax. This ensures the base of the tongue doesn’t collapse and block the airway. This helps to give the patient a safe and quiet sleep.
Mouthpieces have been found to be most effective in patients who suffer from mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea. After a visit with your doctor and a completed sleep study, you will know whether a mouthpiece is right for you. There are different brands of mouthpieces on the market, so it’s important to work with a professional to make sure you are getting the one that works best for you. Each piece is customized to ensure the mouthpieces help with sleep apnea for your specific case.
People who have used a mouth guard to treat sleep apnea have found them to be effective. Here are some other benefits if you’re considering trying one:
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.
One of the key things to remember about a mouth guard for sleep apnea is that it should be prescribed by a licensed physician. There are devices that are sold online, but they can harm your teeth and be ineffective if you choose to buy one blindly. A licensed physician can make sure the mouth guard is tailored to fit your mouth, which will make it work much better.
The average cost of a sleep apnea mouthpiece 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.
Generally speaking, there are no side effects to using a mouthpiece. Some patients do report mild jaw pain and others may see a shift in their teeth. When a mouthpiece is prescribed by a doctor and is custom made, a doctor can monitor the effects it is having on your mouth and teeth and recommend further treatments to deal with any issues.
If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and are looking for relief other than a CPAP machine, contact Dr. Mark Levy. Dr. Levy has been using oral appliance therapy and mouthpieces to treat sleep apnea 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.