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Dental Treatment Of Sleep Apnea

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People with sleep apnea tend to stop breathing periodically as they sleep. Throughout the night, they may suffer from hundreds of episodes in which their breathing is paused before restarting. These pauses can cause poor sleep quality. In addition, tissues of the body may suffer from oxygen deprivation.

Severe forms of sleep apnea are often treated using a CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure machine. The device, which includes a mask, blows a continuous stream of air toward the patient's nose to encourage continuous breathing.  Additional types of treatment may include the removal of the tonsils or adenoids. However, people who have a mild case of sleep apnea may not have to suffer the discomfort of wearing a CPAP machine nightly or undergoing an invasive procedure. Dental options may help. Here is a bit of information to help you understand how dentistry is used in the treatment of sleep apnea:

How is dentistry used to treat sleep apnea?

As a person with sleep apnea falls into a deep sleep, the lower jaw may relax, and the soft tissues of the mouth may collapse to obstruct the airway. A dental appliance may be prescribed to help keep the jaw in a forward position that discourages the collapse of oral tissues. 

Unlike the CPAP machine, which must be worn over the face, an oral appliance used in the treatment of sleep apnea is simply worn like a mouth guard.The appliance should be worn whenever the patient sleeps, but since it is customized to the individualized contours of the patient's mouth, the device is typically quite comfortable.

What are some of the benefits of a dental device to treat sleep apnea?

In addition to the comfort and lack of invasiveness, sleep apnea patients who are treated with an oral appliance enjoy:

  • convenience during travel due to the small size of the appliance
  • silence during use of the appliance
  • uncomplicated wear

What can you expect from your dentist?

Your dentist will examine your mouth thoroughly and perform x-rays to reveal details of your oral structure. To develop a suitable oral appliance, he or she will also obtain an impression of your mouth. The impression is used by the dental laboratory to construct a customized appliance that fits comfortably. When the appliance returns from the lab, your dentist will perform a final fitting for maximum comfort and effectiveness. 

If you suffer from sleep apnea and would like to determine if an oral appliance is suitable for you, schedule a consultation with a dentist like Jacob L. Revercomb DMD.