Sleep apnea is more than just snoring—it’s a medical condition that can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, make it hard to focus during the day, and leave you feeling tired even after a long night’s rest.
Most people are familiar with CPAP devices to treat sleep apnea, but they aren’t the only option. Thanks to new technology, it is possible to reduce the severity of your symptoms or even eliminate them altogether without the need for clunky machinery.
Read on to learn about the best sleep apnea treatment options currently available, and how your dentist may be able to help you find a more comfortable solution.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that disrupts your breathing during sleep. Patients with sleep apnea may breathe very shallowly or stop breathing entirely at night. These periods of disrupted breathing (called “apneas”) may last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and are often accompanied by loud snoring.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type, and occurs when the upper airway is blocked during sleep. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a rare type of sleep apnea that occurs when a person’s breathing slows because the brain stops sending signals to their body to breathe.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, over 25 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. It’s most common in adults 55 and over, but it can affect kids and teens, too. Many aren’t aware they have the condition until a spouse or partner tells them they snore or stop breathing during the night.
How can a dentist help with sleep apnea?
Many patients are surprised to learn that a licensed dentist can help patients with sleep apnea get a better night’s rest by prescribing oral appliances (devices that you wear at night that help keep your airway open). These appliances are small, discreet, and quiet, making them a great alternative to those who don’t find success with CPAP machines or other sleep therapies.
At Muscaro & Martini Dentistry in Tampa, FL, we encourage our patients to talk to us if they’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. We can help you find a solution that you may not have known was an option!
To help you on your path toward restful sleep, let’s discuss four of the best sleep apnea treatment options and how they work.
1. Oral Appliances
There are a variety of oral appliances that can help treat sleep apnea by correcting physical obstruction. Oral appliances are growing in popularity because of their convenience and ease of use, and are recommended by organizations like the American Sleep Association and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
At Muscaro & Martini Dentistry, we often prescribe a mandibular advancement device (MAD), which is an oral appliance that looks similar to a mouth guard used to prevent teeth grinding. A MAD will hold the jaw in place and keep the airway from collapsing at night. We make them custom fit for each patient for maximum comfort and effectiveness.
Other oral appliances include tongue stabilizing devices (TSDs) that pull your tongue forward instead of your jaw. These are best suited for denture wearers, as TSDs don’t come into contact with the teeth in any way.
2. PAP Devices
Positive airway pressure (PAP) devices are respiratory ventilation machines that promote airflow and oxygen intake. The most common device is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, but there are also bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and automatic positive airway pressure (APAP) machines.
Using a PAP device involves placing a special mask over your nose while sleeping. PAP devices are effective for treating obstructive sleep apnea, but some patients find them uncomfortable or inconvenient to use.
Ask your dentist if you had trouble using a PAP device effectively. They may be able to suggest oral appliances or other solutions that are more comfortable.
3. Lifestyle Changes
Our sleep at night can be impacted by the things we eat, drink, and do during the day. Changing certain lifestyle habits may help alleviate sleep apnea severity and improve overall quality of sleep.
- Avoid sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your back can put pressure on your airway and restrict airflow. Try sleeping on your side instead. Some manufacturers make special pillows or devices to keep you from rolling onto your back at night.
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bed. Alcohol and other sedatives can relax the airways and disrupt sleep cycles. Stop drinking alcohol a few hours before bedtime.
- Stop smoking. Studies have shown that smoking cigarettes can cause sleep troubles. Quitting smoking can help treat obstructive sleep apnea.
- Shed excess weight. Carrying too much body fat can put pressure on the tongue and back of the throat, which can obstruct breathing. Losing weight can reduce the severity of sleep apnea by up to 50%. Your primary care physician can help you create a weight loss plan that works for you.
- Exercise more. Exercise—even without subsequent weight loss—has been proven to help some patients treat obstructive sleep apnea, reduce daytime sleepiness, and feel more rested in the morning.
Some of these changes may not completely stop sleep apnea, but they can often reduce symptoms when used in conjunction with treatment from a doctor.
When sleep apnea is caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids (patches of tissue in the back of the throat) that block airflow, the best solution may be surgery. Furthermore, surgery to correct deviated septums or otherwise encourage airflow through the nose can help treat sleep apnea.
A doctor may only recommend surgery if other sleep apnea treatment options aren’t successful or if your condition is severe.
Learn More About Dental Devices for Sleep Apnea
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are struggling to find an effective and comfortable solution, schedule an appointment with the dental sleep experts at Muscaro and Martini Dentistry in Tampa, FL. We’ll see if you’re a good fit for one of our sleep apnea treatment options so that you can start getting the restful sleep you deserve!