Many people struggle with sleep apnea – in fact, according to some estimates, up to 22 million Americans are dealing with the issues surrounding this struggle. But there are many treatments available that can help ease the symptoms of sleep apnea, and help you to get back to a good night’s rest. Then your dentist can make sure to determine one or more of the casuses of sleep apnea in your case.
Sometimes, something as simple as a good decongestant is all that is needed to treat sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea is a breathing disorder, clearing your nasal passages and sinuses can provide the relief you are seeking. However, decongestants are only advised for mild cases of sleep apnea. They are very unlikely to be effective for serious cases.
For cases of severe sleep apnea, surgery may be both prudent and the most appropriate course of treatment. Surgery is more of a “last resort” treatment option, and doctors likely won’t recommend it unless other treatment options have failed. Surgery options include: Tissue removal, where excess tissue is removed from the throat or rear of the mouth, to allow more air to pass through; Also - jaw repositioning, which moves your jaw forward slightly, decreasing the likelihood of your airway becoming obstructed. However, even surgery is not foolproof: The tissue removal procedure (also known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP), only has a success rate of about 50 percent.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine
A CPAP machine connects to a mask that is worn while asleep, allowing the machine to consistently blow air into the throat. This ensures the airway remains open and air flows freely through it. There are numerous different types of CPAP masks and machines, with various features and costs.
Although CPAP machines can be effective, they are not without side effects. Patients can experience runny noses or congestion, and the mask may be difficult to wear for patients with claustrophobia and/or other obstacles.
Oral Appliance Therapy
A very simple, yet also effective solution, is oral appliance therapy. Although it has a fancy name, an oral appliance is essentially just a mouth guard worn during sleep. There are two types of oral appliances – the Mandibular Repositioning Device, which causes the jaw to jut forward slightly, further opening up the airway; and the Tongue Retaining Device, which pulls the tongue forward and holds it in place, preventing any obstruction of the throat.
Your dentist can help you get set up with an oral appliance, fitting you for the mouth guard and making adjustments to it when necessary. There are multiple benefits to oral appliance therapy over the other treatment options listed above: It is much simpler and safer than surgery and it is cheaper and less intrusive than a CPAP machine. Best of all, you can start oral appliance therapy with just a simple visit to the dentist.
Regardless of what type of treatment you choose, it is important to deal with your sleep apnea right away. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to many health problems down the road. To read more, download our free eBook "Prevent the Toothache Before the Money Ache."