Sleep apnea currently affects an estimated 22 million Americans, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. And you may be one of those people who struggle while you sleep and wake up feeling far from refreshed. But the good news is, you are not relegated to using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine as your only option of treatment. 

As dental technology has advanced over the last several decades, new treatments have been developed and there are now sleep apnea dental appliances that can help provide much-needed relief.

In this article, we’ll break down exactly what sleep apnea is and how a customized sleep apnea dental device from your dentist can help. Let’s take a look:


What Exactly is Sleep Apnea?

Understanding exactly what sleep apnea is will help you understand how specialized dental treatments and appliances can provide relief. In general, sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes a person’s breathing to be interrupted during sleep. When untreated, this can happen dozens of times a night. 

If sleep apnea is left untreated for too long it can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, Type 2 diabetes, and depression. It has even been a leading factor in many traffic accidents and heavy machinery accidents due to the persistent drowsiness it causes.

There are three specific types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and complex. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type and is a result of a blockage of the airway from the tongue collapsing against the soft palate and the soft palate then collapsing against the back of the throat during sleep. During an apnea episode, the chest muscles and diaphragm work harder to increase pressure and open the airway. So then, usually a loud gasp or body jerk happens and breathing resumes. These episodes interfere with sound restful sleep and significantly reduce oxygen flow to vital organs.

In central sleep apnea, the airway does not become blocked but the brain fails to signal muscles to breathe due to instability within the respiratory control center. Then, complex sleep apnea is the combination of the two conditions.

Because central sleep apnea is associated with the central nervous system, it is not effectively treated by using sleep apnea dental appliances. Obstructive sleep apnea is the type that is most often treated using oral appliance therapy.

obstructive sleep apnea | sleep apnea dental appliances | sleep apnea treatments Drexel Hill

Source: Mayo Clinic

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Oftentimes, the one with obstructive sleep apnea is not the first to notice that it is happening, your partner will be. This is because one of the most prevalent symptoms is excessive snoring. Some other symptoms include:

  • Suddenly waking up to a feeling of gasping or choking
  • Restlessness during the night
  • Night sweats
  • Sore throat or dry mouth in the mornings
  • Excessive daytime fatigue or sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, or irritability
  • Frequent headaches

Symptoms in children (which may not be as obvious) include:

  • Sleeping in unusual positions, such as on the hands and knees or with the neck hyper-extended
  • Excessive night sweating
  • Bedwetting
  • Daytime mouth breathing and difficulty swallowing
  • Inward movement of the rib cage while inhaling
  • Learning and behavioral disorders
  • Sleepiness or excessive sluggishness, which is often misinterpreted as laziness in the classroom.

If you or your child suffer from any of the above symptoms, speak with your physician and your dentist to discuss your treatment options. 


Treating the Problem with Sleep Apnea Dental Appliances

Customized sleep apnea dental appliances can be extremely effective in treating mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. These dental devices, which fit over your teeth, work to keep your airway open during sleep by preventing the tongue from blocking the throat and holding the lower jaw more forward to prevent blockages. 

One of the most common types of sleep apnea dental appliances is a nighttime Mandibular Advancement Device, which pushes the lower jaw or tongue forward.

sleep apnea dental appliances | sleep apnea treatments Drexel Hill | sleep apnea dental device

Source: Dear Doctor Inc.

Once it is determined that oral appliance therapy would be a good solution for you, an impression of your teeth will be done in the dental office. This will be used to create your customized appliance. Then, when the appliance is ready, you will come back for the fitting and receive instructions on how to use it and keep it clean. You may also receive a morning repositioner that realigns your bite after the nighttime appliance is taken out.

Initially, the appliance will slightly pull your jaw forward, allowing your jaw to get used to it and your jaw muscles start to relax more. Over two to six months, the tension of the appliance and advancement of your jaw will be increased gradually. At this point, the oral appliance therapy will be optimized and it is recommended to have another sleep study done with the dental device in place. This will assess the effectiveness of oral appliance therapy for your sleep apnea. 

It is common to experience some temporary jaw pain during the first few days of using the appliance as your mouth gets used to it. But, this usually subsides pretty quickly. Also, some mouth dryness has been reported.


Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliance therapy using sleep apnea dental appliances:

  • Can improve common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, including eliminating or reducing snoring, daytime sleepiness, moodiness, and concentration issues.
  • Offers a more comfortable and easy-to-wear option for people who cannot use a CPAP machine
  • Is easy to care for
  • Is much more portable for traveling, compared to a CPAP
  • Is quieter and does not require electricity like a CPAP.


Work With a Dental Professional to Help With Your Sleep Apnea

As you can see, sleep apnea dental appliances are a great option for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea. A dentist experienced in sleep apnea treatment can fit you for custom oral appliance therapy, preventing your airway from becoming obstructed at night and allowing you to get the rest you need.

If you are searching for an expert sleep apnea dentist near you, look no further than Radomile Family Dental Care. We are known for the top sleep apnea treatments and can help provide the relief you are looking for. Dr. Mark Radomile is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and specializes in treating sleep-disordered breathing through oral appliance therapy.

We’ve been proudly meeting the dental care needs of patients from Drexel Hill, Broomall, Newtown Square, and surrounding areas since 1961.

Contact our office today with any questions you may have about sleep apnea treatments or to schedule an appointment.