Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that is caused by a blockage in your airway which pauses breathing while sleeping and effect more than 18 million Americans. It is very dangerous problem that if not treated properly, can have serious consequences such as loss of life. While we sleep, our whole body relaxes including the muscles in our upper throat and tongue. When a patient with sleep apnea falls asleep, those upper throat muscles relax into the airway and causes the pauses in breathing. Other causes include a narrow throat or palate area, a lower jaw, large tongue, tonsils, neck, and adenoids, and obesity. The scariest part about OSA is that many people have it and because they are sleeping during the apnea episodes at night, they usually don’t recognize the seriousness of the problem. Usually family members are the first to notice the symptoms. The main symptom of OSA is snoring followed occasional gasps for air, coughing, or sudden waking up. Other symptoms include: irritability, forgetfulness, falling asleep easily especially when siting as in watching TV, reading or possibly driving, and headaches. When these symptoms are discussed with either your physician or your dentist, they will refer you to have a polysomnogram (sleep study) to confirm this diagnosis. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine which resembles an oxygen tank with a tight fitting mask is the usual treatment. CPAP compliance is low due to the nose mask and hose to the machine being uncomfortable and clumsy. Some patients experience nasal congestion, runny nose, or the inability to sleep at all. Also beards, mustaches, and/ or facial irregularities don’t create a tight seal so the mask can move during their sleep.
Dr. Natour has an option that is easy, fast to obtain, and simple. Oral Appliance Therapy uses a Sleep Apnea Splint which repositions the lower jaw and tongue by slight adjusting it forward to allow airflow to drastically increase. The splint is very comfortable, easy to adjust to, and easy to travel with unlike a bulky CPAP machine. With a simple dental impression and 2-3 weeks’ time of lab fabrication, you can be on your way to a good night sleep. Since these splints are custom made and easily adjusted for a comfortable position in the office, compliance is at 92%. With a few lifestyle changes, such as following a sleep schedule, using the appliance regularly and in some cases, diet and exercise, all those sleepless nights will be like a bad dream. Call our office today to learn how sleep apnea appliance therapy can help you.