Sleep apnea is a very common sleeping disorder that affects a person’s breathing while they sleep. When the tongue falls back and blocks the airway, oxygen levels in the blood decrease and carbon dioxide levels go up. Sleep apnea may result in daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and slow reflexes. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, heart failure, and stroke.
The most common device prescribed by doctors is a continuous positive airway pressure mask (CPCP). Because the mask must be worn all night, sleeping comfortably is very difficult and most patients reject this method. A variety of surgical options are available but each procedure comes with side effects and different success rates.
An oral dental appliance is a great non-surgical alternative to CPAP because it is removable and fits like a mouthguard or an orthodontic retainer. The ideal oral dental appliance candidate is someone with mild to moderate sleep apnea. A dentist will conduct an evaluation of the teeth, tongue, jaw and airway. An x-ray of the mouth might be necessary and the dentist will recommend the best device for each individual.
Each appliance is customized by a physical or digital impression that is sent to a lab where it is produced. On the next appointment, the device is fitted and adjustments are made to minimize discomfort and maximize effectiveness. Follow up visits to the dentist are advised to maintain and adjust the device for optimal fitting.
Sleep apnea symptoms will diminish and quality of sleep and health will improve with dedicated use of a dental appliance.