Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a highly prevalent medical condition where the tongue and soft palate collapse in the back of the throat during sleep, causing air flow to stop. When the oxygen level in the blood drops low enough, the patient awakens, usually with a gasp. This repeats frequently throughout the night, causing the affected patient to get insufficient rest, thereby being excessively tired during the day. Additionally, this process will cause drops in oxygen level, with significant consequences to health.
Research shows that OSA increases the risk for:
- Hypertension (in fact, sleep apnea is a primary risk factor for high blood pressure)
- Coronary artery disease
- Cardiac hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart) and heart failure
- Arrhythmias (irregular heart beat)
- Metabolic disturbances, such as abnormal weight gain and poor blood sugar control
- Work related and driving related accidents
Snoring takes place when the soft tissues in the upper airway collapse and vibrate during breathing while asleep. Snoring may or may not be associated with OSA.
OSA is a serious medical condition that must be diagnosed by a physician (usually a sleep medicine doctor). Treatment options include:
- Weight loss
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP machine)
- Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy refers to an appliance that is worn in the mouth while sleeping to treat snoring and OSA. The purpose of this appliance is to mechanically keep the lower jaw in a more forward position; this repositions the tongue and other soft tissues to attempt to maintain an open, unobstructed airway.
Oral appliances for the treatment of OSA are similar to mouth guards or orthodontic appliances. There are many designs that are FDA approved. Here are a couple of examples of appliances that we work with in our office:
Benefits of oral appliance therapy:
- Equally effective as CPAP for management of mild and moderate OSA
- Higher compliance/better tolerated than CPAP
- Portable – patients who travel frequently benefit from having the oral appliance even if they successfully use CPAP