Oral Appliances in Treating Sleep Apnea

A common and serious sleep disorder, sleep apnea is a chronic condition that disrupts sleep as the airways become blocked and limit the amount of air reaching the lungs. Symptoms of the disorder include snoring, feeling sleepy during the daytime, and waking up during the night with shortness of breath. This disorder leaves the brain and body with inadequate amounts of oxygen, and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and poor performance and concentration in various areas of life.

Oral appliances are a great way to treat sleep apnea. Worn in the mouth during sleep, these appliances function to help the tongue from collapsing to keep the airway open. The oral appliance is personalized to fit the patient’s mouth. The appliance essentially repositions the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, and uvula, and also stabilizes and increases muscle tone of the tongue.

There are several types of oral appliances, a tongue retaining appliance or a mandibular repositioning appliance. The tongue-retaining appliance holds the tongue forward with a suction bulb to keep it from blocking the airway. The mandibular repositioning appliance protrudes the lower jaw during sleep and helps maintain that position throughout the night.

There are many benefits to these types of oral appliances. They are comfortable to wear, as they are custom-made, and thus more effective than appliances sold over-the-counter. These devices are easily stored, which make in-home treatment possible. Oral appliances have been shown to control sleep apnea in about half of patients suffering from the condition. While CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is another option for care of sleep apnea, it creates noise and involves wearing a mask. They are the most unobtrusive and least costly way to get effective care for sleep apnea.

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