The Benefits of Oral Sleep Appliances for Sleep Apnea
Understand your options for treating mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
Quality sleep is one of the most important fundamentals of good health. Just think about how you feel after a poor night’s sleep — you may be groggy, irritable, more apt to make mistakes at work, and reaching for cups of coffee and sugary foods for instant fuel is much easier to do when you’re exhausted.
On the other hand, after a good night’s sleep, you’re likely to wake up feeling rested, clear-headed, and ready to take on the world! Or, at least the day ahead.
What may be surprising is that poor sleep can also affect your oral health. As we talked about in this blog, dentists are one of the first health care providers to diagnose sleep apnea for their patients. That’s because what’s happening in your mouth can sometimes indicate what’s happening in your body. Dentists can detect erosion in tooth enamel from acid reflux, which is a surprising indicator of sleep apnea. So don’t be surprised if your dentist asks you, “How’s your sleep?” The answer to this is very important in taking the steps to diagnose sleep apnea.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your dentist may suggest oral appliance therapy (OAT) to treat your OSA. These devices are also known as sleep apnea mouthpieces or splints.
As with any diagnosis, it’s important to understand your options for treatment. OATs have become the more popular choice for patients over the last few years because, for most, this treatment is more ideal for themselves and their partners.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of OAT over other treatments such as CPAP therapy (aka a CPAP machine).
- Less oppressive. An oral sleep appliance is custom-fitted for each patient, which many describe as similar to wearing a sports mouth guard. Some patients might feel claustrophobic with the CPAP mask on their faces. An OAT is much less constrictive.
- Sleep in any position. With the tubing required for a CPAP machine, it may be troublesome for side sleepers, stomach sleepers, and toss-and-turners. Since an OAT is custom-fitted to your mouth, it will stay in position regardless of your sleep position.
- Convenient for travel. An oral sleep appliance is small, the size of a mouth guard. And it comes in a case that can easily fit in your purse or briefcase. Although there are travel CPAP machines on the market, it doesn’t get much easier than putting a small case in your pocket.
- Easy maintenance. Cleaning an OAT is very easy and takes just a couple of minutes in your daily routine. A CPAP machine comes with filters, hoses, and nose pieces that take a little more time to clean and dry. Plus, the machine may need repair from time to time.
- Noise level. CPAP machines have come a long way since the “Darth Vader” versions of decades ago, but the airflow all night long is still audible. Oral sleep appliances are silent, which makes your sleep partner happy!
- Expense. Oral appliances are mostly less expensive than CPAP machines.
- Less irritating for the face. Some patients with sensitive skin may find an OAT less irritating because there are no face straps rubbing against the skin. Same for men with beards.
- Look and feel. Oral sleep appliances are more subtle than putting on a mask for bed, which can help patients feel less awkward. There is also more free space on your nightstand without the CPAP machine setup in the way.
It’s important to note that the stick-with-it-ness of OAT is greater than CPAP therapy. A recent study shows that patients are more likely to stop using their CPAP machine early on in the therapy for several reasons including discomfort, noise, and feelings of claustrophobia. Most treatments involve an investment, whether it’s in time, money, or both. It’s important to give your treatment a fair chance at improving your health.
Everyone deserves a good night’s sleep. If you’re not sleeping well and you think you might be suffering from sleep apnea, contact our office today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Anantuni or Dr. Rahul to see if an oral sleep appliance could help you feel rested, healthier, and energized.