Dental Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that disrupts a person’s breathing as they sleep. It happens when the airway is blocked by the soft tissue that surrounds it. With limited air reaching the lungs (and the rest of the body), the body wakes itself to restore proper breathing.

A common reason why people have sleep apnea is because the soft tissue near the airway relaxes right into it, obstructing airflow. When a person with sleep apnea wakes up, the soft tissue that was blocking the airway also ‘wakes.’ It becomes taut and moves away from the airway and the person can breathe again. People that suffer from sleep apnea go through this cycle several times each hour that they are asleep.

Different treatments for sleep apnea

A common treatment for moderate to severe sleep apnea is a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine. It pushes a flow of pressurized air into the airway, keeping it open as a person sleeps. In a way, the pressurized air acts as the airway’s doorstop. For a variety of reasons, some people cannot or will not use a CPAP machine. They prefer other ways to keep their airways open. That is where dental oral appliances come in.

What are dental oral appliances?

An oral dental appliance prevents the soft tissue around the airway from relaxing and collapsing into it. This keeps the airway open as the wearer sleeps. Oral sleep apnea appliances work in one of three ways:

  • The appliance could keep the lower jaw from blocking the airway
  • The appliance could ‘detain’ the tongue and keep it from blocking the airway
  • Some appliances work by keeping both the lower jaw and the tongue from obstructing the airway

There are many models of sleep apnea dental appliances on the market, but they are all made in a similar way. Dental appliances for sleep apnea are worn over teeth, like a retainer. The upper part of the appliance attaches onto the upper set of teeth while the lower part fits over the lower set.

The two parts are connected with a tube and piston. The appliance prevents the jaw from falling back towards the airway when the jaw muscles become slack during sleep. The variation of the appliance that keeps the tongue in position has an allowance that holds the tongue in place.

Benefits of an oral sleep apnea appliance

An oral sleep apnea device is never used to treat a person with severe sleep apnea. It is simply not enough. That said, there are many benefits of a dental device for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea:

  • It is a portable, more convenient alternative to a CPAP machine
  • In addition to opening the airway, the appliance prevents teeth grinding
  • A custom-made oral appliance is much more comfortable than a CPAP machine

Oral appliances for sleep apnea should fit you perfectly

It is a bad idea to opt for an over-the-counter sleep apnea appliance. Instead, you should get a custom-made oral device. Once a physician clears you for an oral device, then a dentist will take over. They will make a mold of your mouth and teeth. This impression will be used to make an oral device that perfectly fits onto your teeth, palate and the floor of the mouth.

At our practice, we have many years of experience with dental devices for sleep apnea. Visit us for a consultation and a fitting if your physician has advised you to get an oral device for sleep apnea.

Request an appointment here: https://www.dentalartsofok.com or call Dental Arts of Catoosa at (918) 932-3992 for an appointment in our Catoosa office.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Do I Have Sleep Apnea.

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