Sleep Apnea

What Are the Treatment Options?

Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes (weight loss, regular sleep routines, change of sleeping position, avoidance of alcohol or smoking, relief of nasal obstruction), CPAP therapy (a medical device that blows air into your nose and opens your airway), oral appliances (small, plastic devices that are worn in your mouth to hold your tongue and jaw forward), surgery or by a combination of these approaches.

Oral Appliance Approach

A conservative treatment is to have a dental appliance made to wear during sleep which gently moves the lower jaw forward causing a positive change in tongue position. Advantages of an appliance - also known as an orthotic device or mouthguard - over other therapies include:
• Inexpensive cost Non-invasive
• Easily accepted by patients
• Reversible

As a special member of the sleep apnea team of health professionals, a trained dentist will complete a medical and dental history and perform an intra-oral exam to determine where the blockage is and what is causing the obstruction, including:
• intra-oral habit assessment
• evaluating periodontal health
• x-rays and diagnostic model
• TMJ and occlusal exam
• checking gag reflex
• tonsil exam
• orthopedic exam
• airway evaluation with ecovision

When oral evaluation reveals an airway restriction due to chronically enlarged tonsils, an enlarged tongue or soft palate abnormality, a dental appliance can be a successful treatment for snoring and/or obstructive sleep apnea.

Research has shown that appliances are very effective when choosing a treatment modality - especially as an alternative treatment to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Pressure (CPAP) or surgery.

An appliance worn during sleep prevents the .airway from collapsing by creating extra space. While many models of appliances are available to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, only a specially trained dentist can properly select and fit the type of appliance that is needed.

Most dentists who treat TMJ - temporomandibular joint disorders - are an excellent choice, because they are very much aware of the jaw position when making the device. This is an important consideration. In fact, TMJ appliances can often be adapted to work for sleep apnea. Appliances are light and easy to wear. In only a few weeks, most patients are comfortable.