Sleep apnea is when, because of a temporary pause in breathing while sleeping, your lungs are unable to get the oxygen your body needs. The pause may last a few seconds to a several minutes. Often, sleep apnea occurs when an individual’s airway is blocked, which interrupts the airflow and snoring may occur. Typically an individual with sleep apnea is unaware that he or she is having difficulty breathing during the night. Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, restless sleep, or tiredness during the day.
Different treatments for sleep apnea are available. The gold standard for treatment of sleep apnea is a CPAP (continuous positive airflow pressure) machine. This requires the user to wear a mask over the nose and/or mouth. A constant flow of air inflates the airway and delivers oxygen to the lungs. Sometimes people cannot tolerate this treatment or their apnea is so mild that they could investigate other options. A great alternative to a CPAP is an oral appliance. These work by repositioning the lower jaw or tongue forward to help improve the airflow during sleeping.
Research supports the use of an oral appliance in the treatment of sleep apnea in cases of mild to moderate sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea and cannot tolerate other treatment options, consider talking with a prosthodontist about this option.
The American College of Prosthodontists maintains a position statement on the Role of Oral Devices in Managing Sleep-disordered Breathing Patients.