Did You Know Your Dentist Can Use Oral Appliance Therapy to Treat Your Sleep Apnea?

About 22 million people suffer from sleep apnea, according to data from the American Sleep Apnea Association, and as many as 80 percent of those who have the condition aren’t even diagnosed. That wouldn’t be so concerning if sleep apnea were “just” about snoring. But while snoring might be the most common symptom of sleep apnea, the fact is, people who have sleep apnea are at risk for a lot of serious medical problems, like heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even mood disorders.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes your breathing to be interrupted many times during the night. Often, these interruptions are so minor, you can sleep right through them and you don’t even realize you’re not breathing for seconds at a time. In moderate to severe sleep apnea, your breathing can be interrupted hundreds of times a night.

Breathing interruptions occur because the muscles at the back of your throat get very relaxed, and your throat “collapses” in on itself, temporarily blocking your airway. Sleep apnea is more common among people who are overweight or obese, older people, and people with abnormal airway anatomy, like a deviated septum. Men are also more likely to develop sleep apnea, and it’s also more common among people who smoke and among men and women who drink a lot of alcohol. Some medications including opioids can increase your risk of sleep apnea as well.

You might not snore

One of the common misconceptions about sleep apnea is that if you don’t snore, you don’t have apnea. That’s just not true. A lot of people who have sleep apnea snore, but you can have sleep apnea even if you don’t snore. Sometimes the symptoms can be hard to identify, especially since they occur while you’re asleep. Aside from snoring, some of the more common symptoms to watch out for include:

If you have a sleep partner, they may complain about your snoring, teeth grinding, or restlessness during sleep. Don’t take their complaints lightly, because they could be signs you have sleep apnea and you don’t even know it.

How oral appliance therapy works

CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is a common treatment for sleep apnea, but a lot of people find the mask and hose very uncomfortable to wear. Oral appliance therapy (sometimes called OAT) uses a special custom-designed night guard to prevent sleep apnea symptoms so you can avoid CPAP while still preventing apnea-related medical problems. The OAT guard uses durable but comfortable materials, and because it’s shaped for your mouth, it’s surprisingly comfortable in addition to being very effective.

The OAT guard works by gently shifting your jaw position so your airways stay open, even when they relax during sleep. Some guards can even help hold your tongue out of the way so it doesn’t “fall back” and interfere with your breathing. Professionally made OAT guards are much more effective than the sleep apnea devices you can buy online or in a store because they’re shaped to match your teeth and your jaw, which means they’re much more comfortable. When the guard is comfortable, you don’t mind wearing it, and that means your therapy can be a lot more effective. Plus, when your guard is made by your Dr. Adams, you can have adjustments made as you need them to ensure your treatment stays effective, even if your symptoms or needs change over time.

Learn how OAT can help you

If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, you need to start therapy as soon as possible to reduce your risks for serious and even life-threatening medical problems. At Dental Care By Design, our state-of-the-art oral appliance therapy can help relieve your symptoms and reduce your risks without getting tied down to CPAP. To learn more about OAT and how it can help you stay healthy, call our office at 360-207-4992 or book an appointment online today.

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