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Can Oral Appliance Therapy Treat My Sleep Apnea?

Can Oral Appliance Therapy Treat My Sleep Apnea?

Snoring is sometimes an annoying, but harmless, side effect of having a cold or drinking a few too many alcoholic beverages. However, in other cases, it’s caused by a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A CPAP machine is the traditional treatment to keep your airway open while you’re asleep, but other treatments could work better for you — such as an oral appliance.

Our team at the Snoring and Sleep Apnea Center not only helps you determine what’s causing your snoring, but gets you effective treatment as well. Dr. Katharine Christian is a sleep medicine specialist, who offers TAP-PAP, laser snoring treatment, and oral appliance therapy to address your sleep apnea. Here’s a closer look at how oral appliances treat sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

You’ve probably experienced snoring at some point in your life, whether it was you or someone else. In many cases, snoring is harmless and is caused by factors like your sleep position or being overweight. However, in some cases, it could indicate a more serious condition known as sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is characterized by your breathing stopping and starting when you sleep. This can lead to very noisy snoring, along with other signs, including:

There are a few different types of sleep apnea, including obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. A third type, complex sleep apnea occurs when Dr. Christian diagnoses you with both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

When you have sleep apnea, the length of time your breathing stops varies, but it’s normally about 10 seconds or longer. Because breathing is vital to life, you can understand why sleep apnea is a real problem. It’s important to get treatment, as sleep apnea can lead to serious medical problems, such as:

In order to lower your risk for these conditions, Dr. Christian can suggest several treatment options to eliminate your sleep apnea.

How does oral appliance therapy help?

CPAP is the traditional type of therapy for sleep apnea — but it’s not for everyone. You may not be able to cope with some of the side effects of the CPAP machine, some of which include skin rash, mouth or nose dryness, bloating or gas, and claustrophobia. Other people find CPAP exacerbates their insomnia and just as disturbing to their sleep as their untreated OSA! While that doesn't happen to everyone, it’s OK if you can’t tolerate the CPAP machine, because Dr. Christian offers other options for sleep apnea, including oral appliance therapy. 

Oral appliances are similar to two night nightguards. The device is two separate pieces that fit over your lower and upper teeth to help keep your airway open while you sleep. There are two types of oral appliances for sleep apnea — mandibular repositioning devices and tongue retaining devices.

Tongue retaining devices do just what they advertise, keeping your tongue from blocking your airway. Mandibular repositioning devices adjust the position of your lower jaw forward and down to allow your airway to stay open while you sleep.

Oral appliance therapy is very helpful for sleep apnea, and many patients like the device because it’s extremely easy to use. It fits in your mouth and over your teeth, and isn’t as bulky as a CPAP machine. In addition to being easy to clean, Oral appliances are also much easier to take with you on trips, as they’re small and light.

Oral appliances for sleep apnea have the same health benefits as a CPAP machine, but if you’re having issues with the CPAP device, you may tolerate the appliance better.

If you’re struggling with sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to call our office in Seattle, Washington, today at 206-905-6998. You can also request an appointment using our online booking tool. We can help you find the right treatment for your sleep apnea.

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