Sleep Apnea Dentist Discusses CPAP and Oral Appliance Treatments

A doctor holding a clipboard and a stethoscope writing "Sleep Apnea" on the paper.

Frederick Sleep Apnea Dentist Discusses CPAP and Oral Appliance Treatments

Have you been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea? A CPAP machine is the most frequent treatment suggested. However, approximately half of patients who are supposed to use a CPAP are unable to do so for one reason or another. According to the sleep doctors, a patient is “compliant” with their CPAP if they use it for a minimum of four hours each night. Yet four hours isn’t enough to ensure you get a full night’s rest. It also implies that there are many hours when breathing is disturbed. So, while they may technically be compliant, they aren’t really getting the support they need in order to combat obstructive sleep apnea’s long-term effects.

Fortunately, we do have another choice for individuals who are CPAP intolerant or simply want a less complicated therapy – an oral appliance from a dentist that is specifically educated in dental sleep medicine.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the soft tissues of the mouth and throat collapse into the airway during sleep, obstructing the windpipe. When only part of the airway is blocked, there is noisy snoring, but when the entire upper airway is blocked, breathing stops. When there is a blockage, the amount of oxygen in the blood decreases. When the brain senses it is running low on oxygen, it briefly rouses the sleeper to breathe again. The sleeper doesn’t recall waking up, but the night’s sleep is broken into segments, and the body doesn’t get enough rest.

In many cases, a sleep specialist will recommend therapy using a machine that creates continuous positive airway pressure, also known as a CPAP. The airway is kept open via a CPAP machine, which uses pressurized air delivered through a mask. There are several kinds of masks now on the market, and patients may discover one that they are comfortable with through trial and error. Other patients have trouble with equipment maintenance, noise, rashes and eye infections, sore throats, and headaches.

Alternatively, dentists specializing in sleep medicine offer a different treatment option. A custom-built oral device can help treat OSA effectively. The dental appliances are a tiny piece of equipment that resembles a mouthguard. It works with the structure of your body to maintain the airway open during sleep. The lower jaw is moved forward with oral appliance therapy. It’s called mandibular advancement. It brings the tongue forward and keeps the soft tissues from collapsing in on the upper airway throughout the night. Snoring is halted, and the airway remains open.

This option is life-changing for many of our patients who were previously unable to tolerate CPAP therapy. It allows them to treat their OSA without the trouble of having to use a machine at night. It’s less disruptive to both the patient and their partner. It’s also much more convenient in its portability and function without a requirement for electricity. Oral appliances are a great treatment option for people who suffer from mild to moderate sleep apnea. They can also help those who are using CPAP therapy but still have issues. It works as both a stand-alone treatment and in conjunction with other treatment options to improve treatment success.

What Happens if I Don’t Treat My OSA?

Untreated sleep apnea is quite dangerous and can lead to a series of serious medical conditions up to and including death. So, while, for many, sleep apnea seems like an inconvenience that leaves them with daytime drowsiness, it’s actually a very serious health condition. It’s important to begin OSA treatment as soon as possible using a method you’re comfortable with. Using an effective, comfortable treatment option will make it easier for you to use it regularly. The effects of sleep apnea are reversible if caught and treated effectively. If you think you or a loved one may suffer from sleep apnea, it’s important to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to a variety of negative health effects and side effects from the mild such as:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Snoring
  • Troubles focusing, concentrating, or memory issues
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

To the extreme including:

  • Higher risk for cardiac troubles
  • Increased risk for stroke
  • Higher occurrence of automobile accidents
  • Higher occurrence of workplace accidents
  • And so much more.

OSA impacts your body negatively in just about every way possible. It affects your brain, heart, immune system, and every other organ system in your body. This is largely due to the stress associated with poor sleep quality and a lack of healthy oxygen levels while sleeping.

If you’re interested in more information regarding oral appliance therapy using a mandibular advancement device or if you’d like to find out if you’re a candidate, please contact a Frederick sleep medicine dentist, Dr. Jeffrey W. Cross, at (301) 662-0300 today to schedule your consultation. You don’t have to suffer from poor quality sleep. Let us help you regain control over your sleep habits to live a happy, healthy, and long life.

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