Sleep Apnea – Oral Device vs. CPAP – Luxe Dental Austin
Sleep apnea is a serious medical disorder in which your sleep is disrupted multiple times per night due to obstructed breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects about 18 to 22 million American adults and it can happen when muscles in your airway relax, which then interferes with your ability to breathe. When the airway is obstructed, you might wake up suddenly gasping for air, choking or coughing.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep apnea can be a debilitating condition. It can make you feel drowsy — even after you wake up from a seemingly full night’s sleep. But that’s not the only symptom.
Here are some other common symptoms of sleep apnea:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood disorder
- Memory problems
- High blood pressure
- Decreased sex drive
It might not be surprising that fatigue is a common symptom of a condition like OSA since sufferers experience long cycles of unrestful and disrupted sleep sessions. But if you’re wondering whether linking cardiac health and sleep apnea is an exaggeration, we can assure you it’s not.
The National Sleep Foundation warns that high blood pressure is a symptom of untreated sleep apnea. But that’s not all. The condition also increases your risk of developing congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke.
Many sleep apnea patients actually stop breathing while dozing, anywhere from dozens of times to hundreds of times per night! The reason the condition can affect cardiac health is because prolonged periods of sleep deprivation is very stressful on the heart.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
Experts say that one of the biggest indicators of OSA is snoring. But if you’re asleep, how do you know if you snore? Good question! Usually a partner can tell us if we’re “sawing wood” at night. But there are other ways to know if there’s a better explanation for your daytime sleepiness, such as waking up during the night with a choking feeling, having a coughing fit or gasping for air. If this happens at least once a month, you might want to consider something else is at play.
Also, if you have multiple symptoms — like you feel irritable, have headaches, daytime exhaustion, and lack energy — that could mean you’re not sleeping well at night due to sleep apnea. These symptoms are especially troubling if you feel this way more than three or four times a month.
If you believe that you suffer from OSA, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. She might suggest you undergo a sleep test to determine whether you have sleep apnea and diagnose the severity of your condition.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Fortunately, most people improve when they start treating their OSA. There are a few treatment options, from lifestyle changes to wearing a breathing apparatus or an oral device at night. Surgery can help treat more severe cases of OSA.
For mild cases of sleep apnea, you can try some lifestyle changes. People who are overweight are at increased risk for snoring and having breathing problems during their sleep. So losing weight can help a lot. Sleep experts also suggest regular exercise, quit smoking, don’t drink alcohol before bedtime, sleep on your side rather than your back, and avoid taking medications that make you feel drowsy.
After a few lifestyle changes, most experts suggest trying a CPAP or an oral appliance.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
You can wear a mask at night that delivers pressurized air through your nose or mouth. This device is called positive airway pressure (PAP) and is known to reduce respiratory events while you’re asleep. A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure device, forces air through your mouth. It’s the most popular breathing mask for treating sleep apnea.
An oral appliance, or Mandibular Repositioning Device (MRD), resembles an athletic mouthguard and helps reduce sleep apnea events by shifting the position of the tongue and lower jaw in the mouth more forward. The repositioning creates a larger opening in the upper airway. Dr. Michelle Hedgecock at Luxe Dental Austin is a trained sleep medicine professional and can fit you for a custom Mandibular Repositioning Device. Medical Insurance can often help with the cost of the device.
Compared to the loud, bulky CPAP breathing mask, most patients prefer using an oral device for sleep apnea treatment. According to AAST, an organization for sleep-care professionals, “oral appliances, fit by qualified dentists, are an alternative treatment for many patients who can’t use or don’t want to use CPAP therapy.”
Upper airway surgery is typically reserved for the most severe sleep apnea cases. The surgery works by creating a larger opening in the upper airway. However, with any surgery, there are risks, which is why doctors suggest trying one of the other non-invasive treatment options first — either an oral device or CPAP.
Does Treatment Work?
The good news is that most people do find a way to alleviate their sleep apnea symptoms. You just need to find a treatment that works for you. A lot of patients like to try using a CPAP breathing mask, though it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution for OSA. A study published in 2012 found that just 50 percent of patients complied with that particular treatment. On the other hand, compliance with a mouthpiece is higher than the CPAP. A study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that after one year, more than 75 percent of patients were still using their oral appliance, and more than half were still using it after four years.
Interested in whether or not you may be affected by Sleep Apnea? Click on the button below to take our Sleep Survey.