We’ve all heard about the dangers of sleep apnea: excessive daytime sleepiness, increased risk of accidents while driving, as well as cognitive effects. If left untreated, sleep apnea can even be fatal, which is why it is crucial to be properly fitted for oral appliances to correct the situation. Fear not, your emergency dentist in Columbus and New Albany can help!
One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is a procedure called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). In this procedure, a device is attached to a mask worn by the sufferer as they sleep. While it is shown to be effective for many people, it is uncomfortable and awkward.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends dental devices for patients with mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea who are not appropriate candidates for CPAP or who have not been helped by it. Several different dental devices are available:
· Mandibular Advancement Devices are the most widely used dental devices for sleep apnea. They look very much like a sports mouth guard, forcing the lower jaw forward and down slightly, and keeping the airway open.
· Tongue Retraining Devices are splints that hold the tongue in place to keep the airway as open as possible. Patients fitted with one should have a check-up early on to see if it is working, as it may need to be adjusted or replaced periodically.
Dental devices seem to offer several benefits over CPAP:
· Significant reduction in apneas for those with mild-to-moderate apnea, particularly if patients sleep either on their backs or stomachs.
· Improvement in sleep in many patients.
· Improvement and reduction in the frequency of snoring and loudness of snoring in most patients.
· Better long-term control of sleep apnea when compared to uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, which is the standard surgical treatment. There are also few complications with a dental device.
Of course, dental devices also come with some disadvantages:
· Dental devices are not as effective as CPAP therapy.
· The cost of these devices tends to be high.
· Side effects associated with dental devices include:
o Nighttime pain, dry lips, tooth discomfort, and excessive salivation. Over the long-term, these side effects tend cause nearly half of patients to stop using dental devices.
o Permanent changes in the position of the teeth or jaw have occurred in some cases of long-term use. Patients should have regular visits with a health professional to check the devices and make adjustments.
o In a small percentage of patients, the treatment may worsen apnea.
An orthodontic treatment called rapid maxillary expansion, in which a screw device is temporarily applied to the upper teeth and tightened regularly, may also help patients with sleep apnea and a narrow upper jaw. This nonsurgical procedure helps to reduce nasal pressure and improve breathing. Your emergency dentist at The Dental Center can assist you in selecting the right solution for you.