What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a chronic condition that gives rise to severe disturbance of the sufferer’s sleep. It is most common in men, but can also occur in women, especially in later life. Sleep apnea happens when the muscles in your throat relax, allowing soft tissues to fall in and block the airways, causing you to briefly awaken. This can happen many times during a typical night, even hundreds of times, and results in extremely poor sleep quality.
Apart from the resulting fatigue, the most obvious symptom is loud and persistent snoring, often with a snorting, gasping, or choking quality.
How Apnea is Diagnosed
Obstructive sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a doctor. Traditionally, an overnight stay in a medical center would be required, where sleep specialists would monitor your vital signs using complicated equipment.
A more modern, patient-friendly alternative which is used at home is a small device known as the Watch-PAT. It is worn on the wrist during sleep, and monitors your sleep patterns and the other important information the physician needs to make the diagnosis. The Watch-PAT device is now the preferred method of apnea diagnosis and has been used by over 1 million patients.
How Obstructive Sleep Apnea is Treated
There are various ways to treat apnea. One of the most successful is a therapy known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), where the patient wears a face mask bearing tubes attached to a machine which keeps the airways open. Although highly effective, this is not a particularly convenient treatment for the patient.
An excellent alternative treatment is Oral Appliance Therapy which is much simpler, more convenient, and still has a very high success rate. This involves the design of a custom mouthguard-like device which is worn during sleep. It keeps the jaw in the optimum position to stop the airways from being blocked, resulting in more continuous sleep.
Oral Appliance Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) is an effective treatment in many cases of sleep apnea. It reduces the amount and severity of the snoring symptoms and leads to a better night’s sleep. OAT works as a patient wears an unobtrusive, easily-fitted device similar to a mouthguard during sleep. This comfortable appliance gently holds your jaw in the correct position to ease your breathing, keeping your airways open and preventing the excessive snoring caused by sleep apnea.
Oral Appliance Therapy Advantages
Although apnea can be a distressing and debilitating condition, treatment of it is fairly simple using oral appliance therapy, which offers the following benefits to patients with sleep apnea problems.
- It is a simple, safe treatment that requires no medication and has no side effects.
- The appliance is comfortable to wear and easy to become accustomed to.
- The OAT device is easy to fit, wear, travel with, and care for.
- It is a long-term treatment that is designed to remain effective for as long as it is used.
How a Dentist Can Help with Oral Appliance Therapy
After the initial sleep apnea diagnosis has been made by a physician, you will be referred to a dental office for oral therapy options. This first consultation will involve a detailed examination of your mouth, jaw, and airways to provide the information needed to make the device. The device will be designed to perfectly fit your mouth and be completely comfortable to wear.
Once the appliance is ready, you will be asked to make a second visit to our office for your initial fitting. This is a simple, painless procedure where any final adjustments to the appliance will be made to ensure a great fit. You will also be shown how to wear the appliance before sleeping and advised on how to care for and clean it to keep it in the best condition.
After your first fitting, you may be referred for a further sleep study to make sure the appliance is properly adjusted. You may also continue to wear a Watch-PAT device for one or more nights to monitor the effects. You will be given future appointments for an ongoing process of adjustment and testing that ensures the therapy carries on being effective for as long as you wear it.
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