Many of our patients aren’t sure what oral appliance therapy is. This is a relatively new term as the solution has only recently become more widely used to treat various health conditions. In our sleep clinic, we focus on improving our patient’s quality of life by making it possible for them to breathe clearly and get a good night’s sleep. Doing so, makes it possible to maintain normal activities, think clearly, and have a healthy immune system; while people that are sleep deprived suffer from a variety of physical ailments including an increased risk for heart disease.
In order to determine if this therapy is right for you, we will want to complete a thorough examination and test you for obstructive sleep apnea. This is a condition where the muscles in the face and jaw relax to the point that the lower jaw falls backwards during sleep, and as it does, the tongue falls backwards as well – blocking the airways. This makes it impossible for people to breathe clearly, so they end up spending the night struggling to get enough oxygen. If you are waking up tired all of the time, you may suffer from this condition.
There are several ways to treat obstructive sleep apnea and the most common has been to use a CPAP machine. This device has a mask that is secured to your face at night to ensure that you receive constant oxygen. It is extremely effective, and those that use the machine often find that they have energy that has been lacking for years. For example, those that couldn’t stay up past dinner, find that they can stay up late again. This solution has wonderful results but only if it is used correctly and used all of the time. Unfortunately, since it can be uncomfortable, bulky and loud, many patients abandon the device before it has time to work. Oral appliance therapy is an ideal solution for this group of patients.
Instead of requiring you to wear a large and noisy device, you simply place a removable oral appliance into your mouth while sleeping. Those that have worn a retainer will find this to be a familiar feeling. The oral appliance is created in a dental lab using an impression of your mouth so that the fit is snug and secure. It looks similar to a full upper and lower retainer with one significant difference – the pieces are attached. This prevents your jaw from moving backwards at night which ensures that your tongue will also stay forward and your airways clear. As a result, this oral appliance can accomplish the same thing as a CPAP machine for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea. In some cases, patients still need a CPAP machine but the two can be worn together for a more comfortable solution.
When using an oral appliance therapy, you can get the benefits of treating your sleep apnea without any inconveniences. This is also a preferable solution for your partner since they won’t be bothered by the noise of the CPAP machine either.