Understanding the Different Types of Oral Appliances That Treat Your Sleep Apnea

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Understanding the Different Types of Oral Appliances That Treat Your Sleep Apnea

Around 25 million American adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a chronic condition that affects your ability to breathe while you sleep. While OSA can interfere with the quality of your sleep, it can also cause lots of other problems.

At Tomase Dental Care in Toledo, Ohio, Timothy Tomase, DDS, helps patients manage their sleep apnea with custom-made oral appliances aimed at improving breathing during sleep. Here’s how these devices work and why treating sleep apnea is so important.

Quick facts about obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea happens when your airway is blocked multiple times during the night — often dozens of times while you’re sleeping. Many of these interruptions are so small, they won’t wake you up — but they definitely take a toll on the quality of your rest.

Often, the airway is blocked when the soft tissues at the back of your throat “collapse” and descend into your airway. Sometimes, the position of your tongue makes it hard to breathe during sleep. Being overweight and having a small neck circumference also make sleep apnea more likely.

Many people who have sleep apnea snore or wake up gasping for breath. If your partner has OSA, you might notice that they seem to stop breathing for several seconds before spontaneously starting again. 

Sleep apnea complications

Since every part of your body relies on a steady supply of oxygen to stay healthy, it’s not surprising that OSA can cause a lot of serious medical problems unless it’s quickly and effectively managed. Some of the potential complications of untreated OSA include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes

And, of course, because sleep apnea interferes with the quality of your sleep, you’re also far more likely to have daytime drowsiness, along with a loss of focus, problems concentrating, irritability, and an increased risk of accidents.

Treating sleep apnea

Many people have heard of CPAP therapy for sleep apnea. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and in this therapy, air is continuously “pumped” through a mask that you wear while you sleep. The continual flow of air helps keep the airway open, so you don’t stop breathing while you sleep.

While CPAP can be a good option for some people, many find the mask and its attached tube uncomfortable to wear, making it hard to get restful sleep. CPAP machines also require regular maintenance and cleaning to prevent a buildup of germs inside the tube and mask. And, of course, you need to take your CPAP mask, tubes, and machine along whenever you travel.

Oral appliances

Fortunately, there are alternative treatments that are just as effective and don’t involve wearing a mask while you sleep. Dr. Tomase frequently recommends special oral appliances that help prevent the airway from collapsing during sleep.

One device is called a mandibular advancement device (MAD). This device gently shifts your lower jaw slightly forward, helping to keep your airway open as you sleep. A second device called a night splint helps by keeping the tongue away from the airway. 

Both devices are custom-made of special materials for optimal comfort. No masks, hoses, or loud machines are needed, and the devices are small, so traveling with them is no problem. They’re also easy to clean with a mild toothpaste and a soft brush.

Prior to fitting you for your custom device, Dr. Tomase may prescribe a sleep study to confirm your OSA diagnosis. You’ll bring your device with you to regular dental checkups to ensure it stays in good shape and is replaced as needed.

Manage your sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is about more than poor sleeping habits. It’s a medical condition that can have serious consequences if it’s not treated promptly and consistently.

If you have sleep apnea or suspect you do, we can help. To learn more, call 419-670-6537 or book an appointment online with Dr. Tomase today.