Many people — and their partners — must cope with the effects of snoring. More than just an annoyance, it’s often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The most common treatment for OSA is therapy with a CPAP machine, but Dr. Roy Eskow of the Bethesda Dental Implant Center can help with an alternative treatment in the form of an oral appliance that you wear while you sleep.
Q: What causes sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is most commonly associated with being overweight. The condition occurs when the muscles relax during sleep. When this happens, the soft tissues in the rear of the throat can collapse over the airway restricting airflow to the rest of the body. A sleeper with OSA may awaken multiple times overnight gasping for air, and tends to wake up feeling tired. He or she often falls asleep during the day, and can have issues with memory and concentration.
Q: I thought the only option for sleep apnea was CPAP therapy. How does the oral appliance work?
Although CPAP therapy is the most commonly prescribed sleep apnea treatment, an oral appliance offers a similar result without a mask and air tubes. Both are different ways of preventing the airway from collapsing during sleep, when the soft tissues in the mouth are more relaxed.
Instead of a constant airflow keeping the airway open during sleep, as is the case with CPAP therapy, the oral appliance is custom-fitted to the patient’s mouth to position their jaw so as to prevent the tissues in the mouth from blocking the airway when they relax. The appliance is durable enough to stand up to teeth grinding, so that even those patients can benefit from the device.
Q: How comfortable is a sleep apnea oral appliance?
Dr. Eskow meets with patients for an individual consultation in which the mouth is examined and he will make sure you’re fitted correctly and comfortably. Although the device repositions the jaw, it’s designed to fit comfortably in the patient’s mouth to disturb your sleep as little as possible. Most patients report that the appliance is effective in reducing snoring, leading to better sleep and more energy and a better mood throughout the day.
Q: Do I have to see a dentist to get it?
Although a medical doctor or pulmonary specialist will have to diagnose you with sleep apnea, your dentist can treat you once it has been diagnosed. The oral appliance is comfortable and effective because it is custom-fitted to the individual patient’s mouth. Dr. Eskow will discuss your needs with you, gather precise measurements and the specific details about your mouth to ensure the device is as comfortable as possible. It’s no good to stop your snoring only to wake up with a sore jaw!