Sleep apnea is a harmful, often chronic sleep disorder that affects breathing during sleep. Breathing starts and stops during sleep for those afflicted with this disorder. The symptoms include snoring, feeling fatigued during the day, and waking up short of breath during the night. The disorder doesn’t allow the brain and body to obtain enough oxygen, and this can lead to many different conditions including high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and poor concentration.
This disorder is very responsive to treatment, however, especially with personalized oral appliances. These appliances are worn in the mouth during sleep and they keep the tongue from collapsing and blocking the airway. This mechanism of action allows the patient to obtain maximal oxygen. The appliance is custom-made to fit the patient’s anatomy, and acts by repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, and uvula. This helps stabilize the tongue and tone the tongue muscles.
There are two main forms of these personalized oral appliances. One is a tongue retaining appliance, which essentially uses a suction bulb to position the tongue forward. This keeps it from blocking the airway during sleep. The other type of appliance, mandibular repositioning appliance, protrudes the lower jaw during sleep, which pulls the tongue away from the airway.
These appliances are extremely helpful in the treatment of sleep apnea. They are also very convenient, because they are comfortable and easy to wear. Their small size makes them easy to store and transport, keeping treatment at home. They are also much more effective than over-the-counter appliances because of their personalized nature.
Oral appliances have been shown to be very useful in sleep apnea treatment, and as many as half of all patients have been able to control their disorder with these instruments, including those with severe cases. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is another way to treat sleep apnea, but it is much more invasive. Patients must wear a mask and the machine creates noise when using CPAP; oral appliances are much less expensive and much more convenient.