Patients have a number of choices for sleep apnea treatment, including oral appliances, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks, and—in extreme cases that do not respond to more conservative measures—surgery.
Many patients will want to have the initial approach to apnea treatment be the least obtrusive device, which is typically an oral appliance. This type of device has a fit similar to that of an athletic mouthguard, and most patients find the oral appliance to be quite comfortable.
An oral appliance is custom-designed according to patient data gathered by an oral surgeon specifically for this purpose. The device then repositions the jaw or the tongue during sleep to keep the soft tissues at the back of the throat from covering up the airway opening.
Patients may have a difficult time determining whether an oral appliance is effective, especially in the first few weeks of wearing one. Patients may expect more improvement in their symptoms in the initial adjustment period, so it’s important to know if the appliance is working before switching to a CPAP that you may not want to wear.
Ideally, the oral appliance will reduce the number of times that you stop breathing during sleep due to airway obstruction. Your snoring should also be significantly reduced. Unfortunately, while you are asleep, you may not recognize any improvement in those symptoms. Therefore, a sleeping partner may be the best judge of your oral appliance’s effectiveness.
There are certain characteristics that you can pick up on during your waking hours, though. If your appliance is working, you are likely to have much more energy and feel less drowsy during daytime hours.
You may also notice less tension in your temporomandibular joint (your jaw) and fewer morning headaches. Because sleep apnea has been linked to so many health conditions, your doctor may also comment on improvements in health indicators like blood pressure or depressive episodes.
Sleep apnea can be treated effectively without patients having to turn to a clunky CPAP mask that they won’t wear anyway. Contact the office of Drs. Steven Koos and Brian Shah today to learn more about oral appliance therapy and be sure that you know what signs indicate that it is working for you.