People who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are prone to bouts of shallow breathing — sometimes to the point where they stop breathing briefly — while they sleep. For people with obstructive sleep apnea, the bouts shallow breathing are caused when something, such as excess throat tissue, a large uvula, enlarged tonsils, or a nasal obstruction, blocks their upper airway completely or partially. There are numerous treatment methods for sleep apnea, and most patients see a sleep specialist on a regular basis. What many people don't realize is that their dentist can play a huge role in their treatment process. Learn more about using oral appliance therapy to treat sleep apnea.

What is Oral Appliance Therapy?

Oral appliance therapy uses a custom-fit oral sleep appliance to help you manage sleep apnea. The device is custom-made by your dentist. It fits in your mouth like a sports mouth guard, and is only worn while you're asleep to keep your airway open. Many people prefer oral appliance therapy to more traditional treatment methods, such as using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, because the oral appliance is:

  • Easy to use
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Portable, which makes it more convenient to take with you when you're traveling
  • Quiet
  • Easy to maintain

Are You a Good Candidate for Oral Appliance Therapy?

Only people with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea are good candidates for oral appliance therapy. So, if you have a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea or you suffer from central sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy probably isn't a good treatment option for you.

If you're interested in oral appliance therapy, your doctor and dentist will work together to determine the severity level of your sleep apnea before determining whether the treatment will work well for you. Typically, for the severity level of your sleep apnea to be determined, you'll need to complete an overnight sleep study so that your medical team can see exactly how many times your breathing pauses per hour while you're asleep.

How Do You Get an Oral Appliance?

To get an oral appliance, you'll need to schedule a dental visit, such as at Jerry C Hu DDS Family Dentistry LLC. During your first visit, a dental mold — either digital or physical — is made, which is used by a dental lab to customize your oral appliance. Once your device is ready, you'll have another dentist appointment so that your dentist can adjust the way your oral appliance fits in your mouth. This ensures the appliance fits comfortably and works effectively.

If you're suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, and are looking for an alternative to the traditional CPAP treatment, you should contact a dentist that specializes in oral appliance therapy. If you need a recommendation for a sleep apnea dentist, talk to your regular doctor or sleep specialist.