Sleep apnea is a common and serious problem. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep apnea. They also estimate that up to 80% of moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea are undiagnosed.
If you’re suffering with sleep apnea, or you know someone who does, you know the toll that sleep apnea can take. You might also know that CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) devices, while effective at treating the symptoms of sleep apnea, are uncomfortable. Studies show that only 40% of sleep apnea sufferers actually use their CPAP devices on a regular basis due to discomfort caused by the mask and the sound of the device running, which can (ironically) disrupt sleep.
If you’re in the Butte,MT area, Butte Family Dental can help by prescribing an oral appliance to eliminate sleep apnea symptoms, without the discomfort of a CPAP device!
Understanding Sleep Apnea
In the most basic terms, sleep apnea is a disorder: during sleep, breathing stops and starts repeatedly for short periods of time (a few seconds to a couple of minutes). Because of this, the body and brain don’t get all the oxygen they need to function; the results of this can range from loud snoring to excessive daytime sleepiness.
There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). In CSA, the brain fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. While it’s more common in people who have suffered heart failure or stroke, CSA is rare when compared to OSA, which makes up 84% of cases.
While the exact cause is unknown, OSA, as its name implies,is the result of an obstruction of the airway: the tongue falls back onto the soft palate, which then falls onto the back of the throat.
This blocks the airway and causes the symptoms of sleep apnea.
For OSA sufferers, oral appliances are a viable alternative to CPAP machines.
How Oral Appliances Treat OSA
Oral appliances are very similar to mouthguards or retainers. Your dentist will fit you with a custom oral appliance that will be comfortable for you to wear, and most people who use oral appliances report getting used to them after only a couple of weeks.
Oral appliances work by keeping the tongue from falling back onto the soft palate, and provides support for the tissues in the back of the throat. As a result, the airway stays open, allowing for normal breathing. There’s no mask, no tubes, and no disruptive sound!
Keep in mind that oral appliances are only effective for those suffering with mild to moderate sleep apnea. These make up the majority of cases, but your dentist may recommend a sleep study (an evaluation of your sleep in a laboratory setting) to determine the degree of severity of the symptoms you’re experiencing, or if you only believe you might have sleep apnea but don’t have an official diagnosis.
If your symptoms are beyond what an oral appliance can treat, it is very important that you seek treatment; sleep apnea is dangerous because the damage it does is incremental, and results in everything from reduced job performance to shortened life span!
Reduce Your Symptoms With Lifestyle Changes
Sleep apnea symptoms can be most effectively reduced by combining an oral appliance with lifestyle changes and the elimination of bad habits.
Quit Smoking. If you smoke and suffer from sleep apnea, you should quit. There are many, many studies linking smoking to OSA. If you needed one more reason to drop the habit, this is it.
Lose Weight. Research has revealed that losing just 10% of your body weight can reduce the severity of OSA symptoms by 30%! For example, if you’re a six foot tall male who weighs 200 pounds, you only need to lose 20 pounds to see a remarkable decrease in your symptoms.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption. Even if you drink alcohol in moderation, alcohol does reduce your overall muscle tone, which is a contributor to OSA. This goes for other relaxants you might use. It might be time to examine your relationship with alcohol (or other relaxants) and cut it down. This goes double if you’re an older adult.
Side-sleeping. Sleeping on your back can increase your OSA symptoms. Most adults are side sleepers (about 63% prefer it), but if you’re a habitual back-sleeper and you’d like to control your OSA, you can train yourself to sleep on your side. There are products available that can help, but a tennis ball in a sock (attached to your pajama top or shirt) works just as well to keep you from rolling over on your back.
Make an Appointment Today!
Butte Family Dental is a leading provider of OSA symptom-relieving oral appliances in the area. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, and you’re sick of the CPAP machine and would like to explore the oral appliance alternative, or if you concerned that someone you is showing symptoms of sleep apnea, make an appointment today!
Call our office at 406-565-4458.
We look forward to meeting you!