Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has long been the standard of care for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is the most common form of this potentially serious sleep disorder and the type that dentists treat.
CPAP works, but only if you use the machine that supplies the positive airway pressure nightly as directed and can get comfortable with all the tubing and facial attachments you must wear — sometimes a nasal mask and sometimes a mask covering both your nose and mouth.
Unfortunately, many OSA patients find it very difficult, if not impossible, to get comfortable with CPAP and often have problems sleeping because of it or use it irregularly. This does nothing to solve the many problems associated with OSA.
A small, lightweight, easy-to-use oral appliance — a mouth guard — that’s worn nightly can prevent the underlying issues that cause OSA and get you back to a good night’s sleep.
Why you need treatment for OSA
When you’ve got obstructive sleep apnea, it can make your nights miserable. Although not everyone with sleep apnea snores and not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, it’s often accompanied by loud snoring that disrupts sleep.
Other nighttime symptoms you may experience include:
- Frequent pauses in breathing as you sleep, which may occur hundreds of times each night
- Snorting, choking, and gasping for air periodically throughout the night
- Very restless sleep as your brain senses your inability to breathe and awakens you
- Inability to reach a deep, restful state of sleep
But the problems linked to OSA don’t stop when morning comes. Your lack of sleep can interfere greatly with your home, work, and social life.
You may have difficulty with:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches, dry mouth, and sore throat
- Lack of motivation and disinterest in activities you once enjoyed
- Difficulty focusing and completing important tasks at work or home
Because your body relies on sleep for physical well-being, effective OSA treatment is also vital to your good health.
Untreated OSA is often linked to serious medical conditions, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)
- Liver issues
- Type 2 diabetes
- Sexual dysfunction
- Obesity and difficulty losing weight
When you have OSA, it’s important to find treatment that lets you breathe peacefully through the night.
The CPAP dilemma
OSA occurs when the muscles at the back of your throat relax too much during sleep. These muscles support your soft palate, your uvula, your tonsils, the side walls of your throat, and your tongue. When these muscles relax too much, your airway narrows or closes, and you don’t get enough air when you inhale.
The CPAP machine delivers a continuous flow of pressurized air into your throat and prevents your airway from collapsing. It won’t help at all, however, if you can’t get comfortable with the noise of the machine, the attached tubing, or the required facemask.
The mouth guard solution
Oral appliances for OSA, also known as snore guards or mouth guards, are custom fit to your mouth and designed to be worn nightly. The appliance, which looks much like a sports mouth guard, gently shifts your lower jaw slightly forward. This keeps the muscles at the back of your throat from collapsing and prevents your airway from closing.
Many of our patients find a mouth guard much easier to use than CPAP and highly effective for controlling OSA symptoms. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also recommends oral appliance use for patients with OSA as a first-line treatment and for those who cannot tolerate CPAP.
At University Oaks Dental, we take care to fit your appliance to your mouth’s size and shape, so it’s comfortable. Mouth guards are also:
- Easy to care for
- Convenient for travel
And if you don’t have OSA but have problems with snoring, an expertly fitted mouth guard can give you and your housemates a quiet night’s sleep.
If you’re having problems bonding with your CPAP machine or are searching for effective OSA treatment that’s easy to use and portable, schedule an evaluation today with Dr. Alvarado at University Oaks Dental.