Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that occurs when breathing stops during sleep. The pause in breathing can last anywhere from 10 seconds to one minute and may happen as often as 30 times in an hour. As a result, people with sleep apnea are frequently tired during the day and are at a greater risk of serious diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.
The traditional method of treating sleep apnea is with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Patients who are dissatisfied with the CPAP may turn to their dentists to be fitted for an oral appliance to treat their sleep apnea. There are over 100 different oral appliances approved by the FDA to treat sleep apnea. These appliances typically fall into one of two categories: mandibular advancement splints (MAS) or tongue retaining devices (TRD).
Mandibular Advancement Splint
This device consists of two splints that are worn over the top and bottom of the teeth. It looks and feels much like a mouth guard. The device works by pushing the lower job forward approximately eight to 10 millimeters until it is aligned with the upper jaw. Once aligned, it indirectly forces the tongue forward and keeps the airways open, reducing snoring and apnea episodes. Because the splints sit directly on the teeth, the splints will be custom-made in order to ensure a proper fit. Adjustments may be necessary.
Tongue Retaining Device
Tongue retaining devices are typically made of soft silicone and sit inside of the mouth. The device holds the tongue in a forward position via the use of a suction bulb. Once in the forward position, the tongue and soft tissues can't collapse during sleep, keeping the airways open. Tongue retaining devices don't need to be custom-made as they do not attach to the teeth and no adjustments are necessary. This option is often recommended by patients who have dentures.
Both types of appliances can be used in conjunction with a CPAP machine for severe cases of sleep apnea. Additionally, all oral appliances must be prescribed by a dentist. Talk with Dr. Sam Castillo or Dr. Dan Laizure today to see if an oral appliance is an appropriate treatment for your sleep apnea.
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