Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea and Snoring

Sleep apnea is a type of disorder that has you end up breathing shallowly or have pauses in breathing as you sleep. You can stop your breathing through sleep apnea for a period of a few seconds to whole minutes. This can happen thirty times in an hour. Afterwards, you’ll start breathing normally again, with a choking sound or a snort. To correct this, you need to avail of an oral appliance for sleep apnea or undergo some sort of specialized surgery for this very sickness.

As for snoring, this occurs whenever you sleep and it involves letting out some sort of rumbling sound as you breathe in and out while sleeping. You can snore softly or loudly. It varies from person to person. For most people, snoring is a nuisance at best that is just a part of sleeping. However, for severely loud snoring, you can avail of an oral appliance for snoring to help fix the problem, just like with sleep apnea and his somewhat related breathing issues.

An Overview of Sleep Apnea

The condition known as sleep apnea is known to be chronic or ongoing. It tends to disrupt your sleep, thus reducing its quality. When your breathing pauses become frequent or end up turning shallow, you can move out from deep sleep to light sleep, wherein the lightest of noises, movements, or disruptions can wake you up in a snap. This then results in poor quality of sleep which affects you throughout the day by making you feel tired all throughout.

To be more specific, you could end up with daytime sleepiness (of which sleep apnea is one of the leading causes). The problem with sleep apnea is that it’s hard to diagnose and as such it often ends up undiagnosed. There’s no blood test that can pinpoint or detect the condition. Doctors who do checkups can’t detect the condition while you’re awake. Most people who have sleep apnea don’t even know that they have it in the first place.

Types and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Here are the types of sleep apnea and their respective symptoms.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: The most common and troubling type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It’s troubling because you could suffocate in your sleep due to it, especially after a night of drinking. The main method of detection is if your bed partner or family member were to notice the symptoms and signs of sleep apnea while you sleep.

The OSA condition entails:

  • Collapsed or blocked airways during sleep
  • Shallow breathing
  • Breathing pauses
  • Snoring

Yes, there is a connection between snoring and sleep apnea. To be more specific, snoring happens when you try to breathe and you have sleep apnea that causes your airways to be collapsed or blocked. The sudden intake of air from blocked or collapsed airways results in that huge roaring sound that squeezes past the small opening. The more constricted the passage, the louder the resulting snore will get.

OSA commonly victimizes the following:

  • Overweight or obese people
  • Genetically predisposed individuals
  • Small children with enlarged tonsil tissues

Central Sleep Apnea: As for central sleep apnea (CSA), it’s the rarer kind of sleep apnea. This disorder happens if your brain itself has issues with breathing control. To be more specific, you might be in need of an oral appliance for sleep apnea and/or an oral appliance for snoring if your brain consistently sends the incorrect signals to your breathing muscles, resulting in some of the same symptoms as obstructive sleep apnea, although its method or reason for being is slight different.

The CSA condition entails:

  • No effort to breathe for brief periods
  • Shallow breathing
  • Breathing pauses

Central sleep apnea can occur on its own or in tandem with obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring typically doesn’t occur with this variant of sleep apnea due to the absence of an obstructed air pathway. You don’t need to be fat or have enlarged tonsil tissues to be affected by central sleep apnea. It essentially affects everyone.

However, CSA specifically affects:

  • People with certain medical conditions
  • Patients who take certain medications
  • Practically anyone with the right genetics

At any rate, this article mostly concentrates on what you can do to solve OSA with the assistance of oral or dental appliances.

Why Should You Treat Sleep Apnea?

When left untreated, sleep apnea can cause the following complications or consequences due to you not getting enough oxygen while sleeping.

  • Various Disease Risks: Your risk of diabetes, obesity, heart attack, high blood pressure, and sleep suffocation can increase dramatically.
  • Heart Failure: You can specifically worsen or increase the likelihood heart failure by letting sleep apnea continue without treatment.
  • Arrhythmias: You can also worsen or increase the chances of irregular heartbeats, which ties back to heart failure risk.
  • Poor Sleep Quality: Because sleep apnea that’s not treated with an oral appliance for sleep apnea can move you from deep sleep to light sleep, the quality of your sleep will be affected.
  • Snoring: You will snore quite loudly while suffering from sleep apnea, which can affect the sleep quality of those around you. This thusly entails the usage of an oral appliance for snoring as well.
  • Daytime Tiredness: Because your body isn’t getting that 8 to 10 hours of sleep it needs to feel fully recharged, you’ll end up feeling rather tired throughout the day thanks to your untreated sleep apnea.
  • Accidents: Because you’re not getting enough sleep and you’re tired throughout the day, your chances of work-related or driving accidents should also increase with your lowered attention span and compromised alertness.

Long-term management is called for when it comes to dealing with a chronic condition like sleep apnea. Aside from getting mouthpieces and breathing devices to improve breathing while sleeping, you also need to change your lifestyle, lose weight, stay fit, or undergo surgery to address your sleep apnea woes.

To be more specific, you need oral appliance therapy as your immediate solution for OSA and the snoring it directly causes. This life-changing treatment of sorts is your best bet when it comes to gaining the following benefits:

  • No more snoring
  • Revitalized health
  • Deep, satisfactory sleep
  • Energy and alertness throughout the day
  • Reduced risk for diseases like diabetes and heart ailments

About Oral Appliance Therapy

The mouth guards, mouthpieces, and/or breathing devices used for oral appliance therapy are mostly worn while you’re sleeping. If you’ve ever seen a boxing or MMA match, then you’re probably familiar with what a mouthpiece looks like. It’s a rubber dam usually custom-fitted to your teeth that you wear inside your mouth.

In prizefighting, it’s mainly used to protect your teeth after the pummeling your face will take from taking in strikes or punches. These mouthpieces typically fit your mouth like a glove or to be more appropriate like an orthodontic retainer or a sports mouth guard. It provides the following specific structural benefits.

  • The oral appliance for sleep apnea supports your jaw.
  • The oral appliance for snoring also (obviously) reduces or eliminates snoring altogether.
  • The oral appliance specifically helps in maintaining an open upper airway to prevent shallow breathing.

These appliances specifically work like stents to an obstructed colon. They open up the pathway to give way to more air and regular breathing, thus there’s no snoring effect going on and your risks for OSA-related complications are significantly reduced. You’ll most importantly, go into deep sleep and have more quality slumber time when all is said and done.

Doctor to Dentist Referral

Once you and your doctor have discussed your options in dealing with the condition, your healthcare specialist will then write a prescription for you to get the right oral appliance, with the mouthpiece tailor-made to fit your specific jaw and teeth.

The oral appliance will be offered by a qualified dentist referral. It’s the dentist who’ll provide you with the oral appliance therapy since this type of treatment is under his expertise. More than a hundred of these appliances have received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It’s the dentist who’ll recommend and customize the best oral appliance for you with the dental lab he’s affiliated with. Luckily, most medical insurance and/or dental plans provide coverage for oral appliance therapy (unlike in the case of cosmetic dentistry and teeth bleaching, in contrast).

The Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy

According to numerous research and studies, oral appliances are effective (or even the best treatment next to outright expensive surgery) in treating sleep apnea.  With that in mind, here are the many perks you can get from this product.

  • Comfortable and Easy to Wear: Like a boxer’s glove, this “boxer’s mouth guard” fits like a glove (or a mouth guard). Unlike with orthodontic braces or even false teeth, it won’t feel like you have marbles in your mouth that doesn’t belong there. Depending on the expertise of the dental lab that made the oral appliance, you could end up with something that feels so comfortable to wear you’ll forget it’s even there. The soft material is also quiet and won’t bother you or others while sleeping.
  • Fits Your Lifestyle Better: Unlike with the surgery option where you have to stay in the hospital for a couple of days, then undergone a healing process at home soon afterwards, putting on an oral appliance will not disrupt your lifestyle as significantly. It’s as easy as putting on a cap and most people can effortlessly get used to the habit of wearing a mouthpiece before sleeping.
  • Non-Invasive Treatment: Aside from probably having to wait a few days to a few weeks before receiving your custom-fit, tailor-made mouth guard for nightly usage, there’s little to no adjustment necessary to accommodate the oral appliance. You won’t have to undergo a healing period. You won’t have to take medication to prevent infection. You won’t have to rehabilitate yourself. As soon as you get the mouth guard, just wear it nightly and you’re good to go.
  • Portable and Convenient for Travel: As in the case of eyeglasses, your mouthpiece oral appliance for sleep apnea is completely portable. It’s as ready for travel as your smartphone or tablet (even more so than your laptop). You can keep it as part of your carry-on luggage when you’re aboard a plane. You can also keep it in your pockets or along with your other dental maintenance tools, your toothpaste tube, toothbrush, mouthwash, and dental floss.
  • Easy Maintenance: Don’t forget to wash it after wearing it. It’s also preferable that you brush your teeth before putting the mouth guard on so that food particles and other substances you’ve been consuming won’t end up inside the oral appliance for snoring, thus compromising its integrity or potentially damaging it internally. Clean it up as often as you clean your teeth (or even more so) in order to ensure that the appliance will last you a long, long time before needing another custom replacement.

Making and Fitting Your Oral Appliance

Dentists work closely with doctors in order to properly treat sleep apnea and snoring. Before the dentist can recommend an oral appliance, he needs to get a prescription and analysis from your doctor first. He’ll then tell you about the treatment’s benefits while also outlining your other options. You’ll then receive info on the cost of the therapy and its potential side effects so that everything is on the up and up.

Your dentist will also need to examine following:

  • Airway
  • Tonsils
  • Throat
  • Tongue
  • Jaw
  • Teeth

He’ll x-ray your mouth for good measure as well, so as to verify and expound upon the assessment of the doctor. From there, physical impressions (via an oral mold) or digital scan of the inside of the mouth will be used as a basis for the sleep apnea mouthpiece. Your mouth guard is supposed to perfectly fit your mouth in order to work properly in opening up your airways.

The appliance itself is made by a dental laboratory specializing in creating such devices. Once the mouthpiece is ready for wearing, you’ll return to the dentist clinic to get the mouth guard fitted. The appliance will then be adjusted further by the dental professional to ensure maximum effectiveness and comfort. You’ll also be taught how to clean and maintain the appliance to maximize its longevity. After the fitting, you’ll undergo a sleep study to see if the treatment was a success or not.

Thantakit International Dental Center is Thailand’s longest established dental center. Situated in Bangkok, our clinic is renowned across the world as a destination for world-class dentistry, with most of our patients flying to us from Australia.

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