If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the doctor probably prescribed a treatment called a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and the machine blows forced air into your lungs through a mask that you wear.
Many people find themselves unable to get adjusted to wearing a CPAP mask and may even give up on trying to treat their sleep apnea. But an oral appliance that you wear during sleep may be equally effective in keeping your airway open. Dr. Thomas D. Sokoly of Sokoly Dental explains more about the benefits of wearing an oral appliance for treating sleep apnea.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea affects between 9 and 24% of adults, but it’s estimated that 80% of cases of moderate-to-severe sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. Usually, the most obvious symptom of sleep apnea is that a partner will tell you that you snore. Snoring is a symptom because sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing several times an hour, and you may gasp for breath in your sleep.
But other symptoms of sleep apnea are more subtle and may be easy to dismiss, especially if you sleep alone or your partner doesn’t report hearing you snore. These symptoms include:
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia)
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Difficulty paying attention
Sleep apnea is a serious problem that requires treatment. Untreated sleep apnea can affect your performance at work and put you at greater risk of car accidents due to daytime sleepiness.
Untreated sleep apnea also increases your risk of developing insulin resistance or diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and liver problems.
Treating sleep apnea
As mentioned above, the most common method of treating sleep apnea is to use a machine to help you keep breathing while you sleep. While the CPAP is the most common type of machine, another commonly used is the bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP), which provides more pressure when you inhale and less when you exhale.
As many people find it difficult adjusting to both these machines, there fortunately is an alternative — oral appliances. These appliances, which you wear during sleep, also keep your airway open. Some are designed to keep your throat open by moving your jaw forward, although there are multiple types of oral appliances available.
In addition to being easier to use, oral appliances are also more portable than CPAP or BiPAP machines. This makes them much easier to take along when you need to travel or sleep somewhere other than at home.
Oral appliances are also completely silent, which gives them a significant advantage over CPAP machines. Although CPAPs have come a long way in terms of their noise levels, they’re still very audible and may keep you and/or your sleep partner awake.
In addition, oral appliances are easy to keep clean. All you need to do is to brush the appliance with a toothbrush daily using a gentle toothpaste and water. CPAP machines require significant daily and weekly cleanings.
If you have sleep apnea, it’s a serious condition with some severe consequences if left untreated. You’ll likely be amazed at how much better you feel after sleeping with an oral appliance. Call Sokoly Dental at 202-280-2428 if you’d like to discuss your options for an oral sleep apnea appliance, or schedule an appointment online.