Approaches to sleep apnea
Up to 5 percent of the western population experiences an irregularity in breathing during sleep caused from a temporary collapse of the airway. This disturbance in breathing patterns, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), can have several negative effects beyond snoring.
Sleep apnea can lead to spikes in blood pressure, and frequent episodes can eventually cause persistent elevation. Hypertension is also associated with cardiovascular consequences, such as heart disease or stroke. Interruptions in sleep can also make OSA suffers lethargic or prone to difficulties concentrating during the day, making them more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.
Some treatments that can help patients breathe and sleep easier include:
There are several treatments available for OSA, from soft palate surgery to nonsurgical treatments like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Patients using CPAP are fitted with masks that they must wear while sleeping, using airflow to keep the nasal passages from becoming obstructed. Because sleep apnea is usually a lifelong condition, the therapy is generally recommended to be used long term. Though effective, treatment with a CPAP machine can be fairly demanding.
Patients with mild symptoms often prefer alternative approaches to a CPAP. A dental device, or orthosis, can address OSA by shifting the position of the jaw.
In one study, patients were fitted with devices that attached to their upper teeth, pushing the mandible forward and opening the airway. The orthosis reduced or removed snoring in most of the patients and 87 percent reported improved sleep quality. Overall, the orthosis was accepted for long-term use by more than three-fourths of the patients. Side effects, such as discomfort of the jaw or teeth, were minor.
The most effective treatment for sleep apnea sufferers depends on the severity of their symptoms and what approaches they best tolerate. In the more severe cases, interventions like surgery or the CPAP machine may be required, but treating sleep apnea with a dental appliance may be an ideal solution for people with milder symptoms.
Please contact us for more resources on how to treat obstructive sleep apnea.