What is sleep apnea?
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is defined as a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Sleep apnea occurs when breathing is suspended for periods of 10 seconds or longer. Pauses in breathing occur 5 times or more an hour during sleep. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when an airway collapses; and central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
What are the dangers of untreated sleep apnea?
Untreated sleep apnea increases the chances of heart attack, stroke, type II diabetes, and even sudden death. Recent reports now indicate a relationship between untreated sleep apnea and cancer, along with dementia, obesity and other health issues. Up to 20% of the U.S. adult population is estimated to be affected by sleep apnea. Even more alarming is that nearly 90% of the population remains undiagnosed.
What are the treatment options?
Sleep apnea treatment involves maintaining an open airway during sleep and preventing the airway from collapsing. Treatment options include: a CPAP machine, an oral appliance or various types of surgery involving the nasal and/or oral airways.
How does an oral appliance work and when is it used?
An oral appliance is a custom fabricated mouthpiece that is similar to an orthodontic retainer or a sports mouth guard. The appliance is worn at night over the teeth and it functions to keep the airway from collapsing during sleep. Airway maintenance is achieved by comfortably repositioning the lower jaw and tongue forward or by restraining the tongue to keep the airway open. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends oral sleep appliances as a first line treatment option for individuals with mild or moderate sleep apnea or for those who are unable to use CPAP successfully. Oral appliances are also considered for those who are not candidates for surgery or for those who do not prefer to pursue airway surgery.
Which medical practitioner is best qualified to provide oral sleep appliances?
A dentist specifically trained in a field of dental sleep medicine, such as Dr. Niegsch, can expertly fabricate a dental sleep appliance. The dentist will work closely with sleep physicians and sleep lab technicians to ensure appliance efficacy and long term health of the individual.
Does insurance pay for oral appliances?
Many medical (not dental) insurance companies pay for the cost of oral sleep appliance treatment if proper medical protocol is followed by an experienced and qualified provider.
What are the benefits of an oral appliance?
Oral sleep appliances can be comfortable and convenient treatment option in the management of snoring and sleep apnea. They are easy to use, travel friendly and covered by medical insurance.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, call our office for an evaluation at 515-817-1491.