Treating Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Oral Appliance Therapy

In a study conducted in 2016, it was reported that 24% of men and 17% of women in Australia had experienced loud snoring in their sleep. More than half of these people were diagnosed with sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) where the person’s breathing stops repeatedly during sleep.   Diagnosis of such sleeping disorder is rapidly increasing, with obesity as the primary risk factor although the increasingly technological lifestyle also has immense influence.

How can a dentist help with sleeping disorders?

If you live in Townsville, a trusted dentist can thoroughly screen you for OSA and refer you to a physician that specializes in this area. There are also oral devices or appliances that can help keep your air passage open while you sleep to avoid the health risks that patients with OSA are prone to.

Oral appliance therapy

Oral appliance therapy is just one option to treat OSA, but it is considered as one of the most effective methods. The device is worn only when you are about to sleep, and it forces your jaw to maintain a forward position. This way, your air passage will remain open and your breathing won’t stop and start repeatedly. Think of this oral appliance as a dental retainer or a mouth guard, which is also custom-fitted for your mouth.

Benefits of oral appliance therapy

A lot of sleep apnea patients prefer oral appliance therapy over other methods, as it is effective and used only at night so it doesn’t invade the patient’s lifestyle. Other benefits of oral devices that treat OSA are the following:

  • It can be carried anywhere as it is portable and convenient.
  • It is low maintenance.
  • It doesn’t require any special procedure to be worn.
  • It doesn’t make any noise.

Patients find that oral devices are comfortable, and they can sleep easily despite having to wear it. As an effect, their lives are completely changed. They are more energized and refreshed when they wake up in the morning because they have slept well. Oral devices also enhance the sleep quality of a patient’s partner, as loud snoring does not occur anymore.

Other methods to treat snoring and sleep apnea

Aside from oral appliance therapy, physicians will also advise patients, especially those that only have a mild diagnosis of OSA, to make some changes to their lifestyle. First of all, for weight-induced sleeping disorders, patients are encouraged to lose weight by exercising and following a healthy diet. Minimizing the intake of cigarettes and alcohol will also improve a patient’s condition, as well as lying down on one side when sleeping.

Consequences of untreated sleep apnea

Woman with sleep apnea

Some people put off a doctor’s appointment to have their snoring checked, not knowing that loud snoring can be a symptom of OSA. If left untreated, the patient will be more prone to diabetes, heart arrhythmias, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.

Not only is sleep apnea detrimental to your health; it also causes daytime drowsiness, which can possibly lead to accidents and affect other people. If you or someone you know regularly snores loudly, have them checked so that a sleep study can be done to rule out OSA.