It's estimated that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) currently affects more than 13 million people in the United States. Approximately 2% of women and 4% of men over the age of 35 are affected.
A serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where the individual actually stops breathing repeatedly for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. Although common, sleep apnea often goes completely undiagnosed since many sufferers are not even aware it's happening.
This cessation in breathing, or apnea episode, can be a minute or longer in duration and might be repeated as many as a hundred times or more during a single night. The frequent arousals and the inability to achieve or maintain deeper stages of sleep are the main factors which contribute to the debilitation of one's health.
Symptoms & Health Risks
The health risks of obstructive sleep apnea are multi-faceted. Besides being drowsy, fatigued, with lowered energy levels during the day, sleep apnea patients are subject to a variety of negative health issues and social problems due to sleep deprivation.
Some of the obvious signs suggesting obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are loud snoring, obesity, morning headaches / dry mouth and frequent urination during the night. Other symptoms include nighttime indigestion, problems with memory and concentration, daytime sleepiness, depression, irritability, night sweats and a decreased sex drive.
Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can also contribute to high blood pressure, hypertension, heart attacks and stroke. Equally dangerous is driving an automobile while being drowsy. Each year thousands of lives are lost due to sleep deprived drivers.
Obstructive sleep apnea is now more common in the U.S. than was previously thought; however, OSA responds well to therapy.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Depending upon its severity and type, there are several treatment options available to sleep apnea patients. Weight loss is a simple remedy for obstructive sleep apnea since it reduces overall mass in the airway. Where anatomical abnormalities are present, other treatments such as positional therapy, CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), corrective surgery and/or an oral appliance are recommended. Each has its own advantages and shortcomings.
We generally advise most patients to explore reversible methods before considering procedures that are irreversible. First, look for the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:
- loud snoring
- gasping for air, or choking sounds followed by silence
- morning headaches
- un-refreshing sleep
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- poor concentration
- falling asleep while driving
- decreased performance at work
- reduced interest in sex
Can an oral appliance help prevent snoring?
Yes; if you qualify as an appliance candidate, exhibit no OSA symptoms and you're only concerned with snoring, one of the new oral airway dilator devices are very user-friendly and can solve your snoring problems.
How serious is sleep disordered breathing?
Depending upon its severity, sleep disordered breathing (OSD) has been linked to hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression, sexual dysfunction, family discord, accidents and increased mortality rates.
I suspect my spouse has sleep apnea; what should I do?
Encourage your spouse to read about the seriousness of sleep apnea. Assure him/her that the condition is completely treatable with excellent success rates; urge them to contact a sleep specialist as soon as possible and schedule an appointment for a screening or call us.
What's an oral airway dilator?
An oral airway dilator is one of several generic terms used to describe an FDA approved oral appliance; the intraoral appliances are custom-made by dentists to treat snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
What other treatment options are available for sleep apnea?
The simplest remedies for treating sleep apnea include weight loss and behavioral modifications such as changing sleeping positions and avoiding alcohol or heavy meals after 8 p.m. Other interventional therapies being used are CPAP / BiPAP, surgery, somnoplasty, oral appliances, and herbal remedies. In most cases, reversible methods should be explored before irreversible procedures are considered.
Compared to CPAP, how effective is an oral airway dilator?
When indicated, a dental appliance is an effective therapy for mild to moderate sleep apnea. Advancements in appliance designs have greatly improved their dependability from earlier versions. In many cases, for the 35% of people who cannot tolerate wearing the CPAP, an oral airway dilator has been just as effective as CPAP without its inconvenience or discomfort. Oral appliances are endorsed and accepted by patients and medical professionals.
I really dislike wearing the CPAP mask; how can I obtain a dental appliance?
If you are unable to adjust to wearing your CPAP mask, the first step is to tell your physician and request that he refer you to a dentist who specializes in dental appliances. The dentist will perform an acoustic analysis of your upper airway, take measurements, determine jaw positioning & other physical attributes in order to create a custom appliance based on your individual needs. If you live in central Indiana, have your physician contact us.
How do I know if I am a candidate for an oral appliance?
If you snore, wake up often during the night, suffer from headaches in the morning, experience sleepiness frequently during the day, or you're if intolerant of CPAP, you could benefit substantially with an oral appliance. Contact us to schedule a clinical evaluation and our dentist will provide testing to determine whether you're a candidate.
What are the Benfits to an Oral Appliance?
All oral appliance attempt to dilate or open the airway to relieve snoring or OSA. They are really great for patients who can not tolerate the CPAP mask or just snore. The oral appliance proves to be more comfortable and effective and has excellent patient acceptance. It is non-surgical and conservative and is moderate in cost, and it is user-friendly
How do I care for my oral appliance?
Once they're properly fitted and adjusted, custom made appliances (using high-quality materials) are durable, portable, easy to use and maintain. Following brushing your teeth, you should brush your oral appliance and return it to its protective case out of reach of small children and pets. Then once per week soak it in denture cleanser during the day to remove any micro bacteria build-up that could cause odor or stains.
How long will it take to get my dental appliance?
Creating a custom dental appliance usually requires about 2 - 5 appointments. First we'll need to determine if you're a candidate; if you are only concerned with snoring, simply contact us to make an appointment. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, we can refer you to a sleep disorder specialist for a medical evaluation and sleep study.