Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a medical condition that can affect children, adults, and seniors. With OSA, soft tissues in the throat and back of the mouth collapse during sleep and block airflow. ‘Apnea’ means ‘to stop breathing’. Sleep apnea is when someone stops breathing during sleep. These apneic episodes occur for 10 seconds or longer, multiple times throughout the night. When airflow stops, the brain is alerted and signals the body to re-initiate breathing. This results in a lack of sufficient REM sleep, a sleep phase required for the body and mind to recover from the day’s activities. Thus OSA leads to sleep deprivation, which can seriously affect your health and quality of life.
How can I determine if I have sleep apnea?
If you know that you’re getting enough hours of sleep at night, but still feel tired, you may suffer from OSA. To obtain a diagnosis of OSA, one must attend a series of sleep studies at a sleep lab. This typically includes one or more overnight stays to pinpoint the cause of the sleep disturbances and establish a diagnosis. In some cases, at-home sleep studies are sufficient to establish a diagnosis. Some patients prefer to sleep in their own beds where a sleep monitoring device records the data about their apneic episodes. A qualified sleep physician reviews the data to determine the severity of OSA.
What are the treatments for sleep apnea?
Many OSA sufferers find relief through the use of a custom-made oral appliance, which repositions the jaw, allowing oxygen to flow, unimpeded, across soft tissues in the mouth and throat.
The traditional treatment for OSA is the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) mask, a moderately noisy, bulky device that users often find uncomfortable and inconvenient.
Alternatively, oral appliances have been approved for mild to moderate sleep apnea. There are about fifty different OSA devices on the market. These appliances are selected and custom fitted for each qualified patient.
How can I get an oral sleep appliance?
If your sleep physician diagnoses you with mild or moderate sleep apnea, he would be the one to decide if you should get an oral appliance and prescribe it to you. Sleep physicians can supply CPAP machines but would not fit you for an oral sleep apnea appliance.
Who fits the oral sleep appliances?
Traditionally a prosthodontist would be the right address to fit you for an oral sleep appliance. Qualified dentists (specialized for OSA) could do this as well. It is important that these appliances are well-chosen for you from the diverse offering of different appliances.