Are you waking up, gasping for breath?
Do you feel tired even though you slept all night?
Does your partner constantly complain about how much you snore?
If these questions describe you, you may have sleep apnea! Learn about sleep apnea and how a dental appliance may help improve your symptoms and your overall health.
What is sleep apnea?
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is when your breathing keeps stopping and starting while you sleep. Signs you have sleep apnea include snoring loudly or feeling tired after a full night’s rest. Sleep apnea happens when your throat muscles and tongue collapse onto the back of your throat, blocking your airway and making you stop breathing multiple times when sleeping.
Nearly 10% of women and about 25% of men have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of sleep apnea, which is described as having explosive snores, grunts and gasps throughout the night.
What is the treatment for sleep apnea?
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a variety of health problems including congestive heart failure, stroke, heart attacks or diabetes. The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It prevents your airway from collapsing by blowing air through a mask.
An alternative to the CPAP machine is using a dental appliance to improve sleep apnea. The dental appliance fits over your teeth—like an orthodontic retainer—while you sleep, keeping your jaw in a forward position. This keeps your airway open while you sleep.
Why should I use a dental appliance for sleep apnea?
Using a dental appliance to improve your sleep apnea has many benefits. The dental appliance:
- Is easier to take along while traveling
- Works without electricity
- Is quiet and won’t disturb others
- Can improve daytime symptoms including your mood, concentration or feelings of being tired
- Is easy to care for
Who should use a dental appliance?
First, speak with your family doctor about your sleep apnea concerns and they can refer you to a sleep center. The center will confirm your diagnosis after you complete an overnight sleep study. Then, your doctor will decide if a CPAP machine or dental appliance will work best for the severity of your symptoms.
A dental appliance is best for people with mild or moderate sleep apnea and for those who cannot, or do not want to, use a CPAP machine.
How do I get a dental appliance?
A dentist or orthodontist familiar with sleep apnea will customize a dental appliance for you. They will take an impression of your teeth and create a mold from which they will make your new device. You’ll receive instructions on how to use the dental appliance and how to clean it. Then, regular check-ins will help make sure your dental appliance fits properly and is working well to improve your sleep apnea.
Treating your sleep apnea with a dental appliance or a CPAP machine will help boost your health, make you feel better and improve your quality of life. Here are a few more resources on how to improve your sleep and why it’s so important!