Not everyone can fall asleep right away or enjoy a good night’s rest even when they do. For those who snore heavily, wake up gasping for air, or experience morning headaches, sleep disorders are an unfortunate reality. Specifically, sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, either due to a blocked airway or a signaling problem in the brain.
Whichever the cause, people struggling with sleep apnea are faced with several treatment options depending on the seriousness of the disorder. For those with milder symptoms, certain lifestyle modifications help normalize breathing. Individuals who face more severe effects often turn to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy or even surgical procedures to shrink obstructing tissue or remove excess tissue.
For those who cannot tolerate CPAP devices, neuromuscular dentistry is gaining popularity as an alternate treatment method in which custom-made oral appliances are used to target the source of the problem.
Is Neuromuscular Dentistry for you?
A lot of people face difficulties using CPAP devices either because wearing the mask is too uncomfortable or the noise is too loud or it leads to excessive dryness. If you are confronted with these issues, ask your sleep specialist to recommend you to visit a dentist with expertise in oral appliances so you can discuss alternative options to treat your sleep apnea.
After a thorough consultation and upon reaching a conclusive decision that a dental device will be a suitable treatment for you, the dentist will go ahead and make an impression of your teeth. You will be called for a fitting to the dental clinic once the final model is made along with detailed instructions on how to use and clean the appliance. Rest assured that a follow-up appointment will be scheduled in advance in case any further custom adjustments become necessary. In many cases, a second sleep test is recommended to ensure that the device is working successfully.
What Are Your Options?
Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD)
This device, which looks similar to a mouthguard used in sports or an orthodontic retainer, has to be fitted in the mouth by a dentist and worn throughout the night. Designing specifically to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and snoring, MADs make it possible for the lower jaw to ease forward as you sleep. This movement prevents the soft tissues in your throat from collapsing and clears the airway to help your breathe normally.
Tongue Retaining Mouthpieces
This mouthpiece consists of a small piece of plastic that sits at your lips and has a compartment that fits around the tongue and holds it in place to keep your airway open. In order for you to be a suitable candidate to use a tongue retaining mouthpiece, a dentist will ask you to stick your tongue out past your teeth. If you are unable to do so, an alternate option will be recommended for you. If you do end up using it, you should clean your device every day with hot water to prevent infection and minimize unpleasant odors.
People don’t necessarily consider snoring at night as a sign of a harmful disorder, and if it is light snoring, you most likely have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if you or your partner suffer from bouts of loud snoring punctuated by periods of silence, you are looking at sleep apnea. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to several complications such as excessive daytime sleepiness, eye problems, and even cardiovascular issues. Once you are aware of the warning signs and have visited a doctor confirming the diagnosis, you can discuss treatment options. While many sleep professionals recommend CPAP devices as a first-line treatment option, neuromuscular dentistry is fast becoming a viable option to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.