What You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea Appliances

What You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea Appliances

May 01, 2021

Before starting to look into the different ways in which sleep apnea is managed and treated, it is good to understand what the condition is all about. Unfortunately, as the name implies, this condition only presents itself during sleep. This is a big challenge to those affected as while they do experience the symptoms, it is when they are unaware and thus cannot pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Sleep apnea is sleep disorder that causes one to stop breathing periodically. This happens several times during sleep and in turn affects the quality of rest you get.

There are three main types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and mixed. Obstructive apnea is the most common and happens when the upper airway becomes blocked either partially or completely during sleep. When this happens, the brain responds by sending signals to the respiratory system so that it works to get through the obstruction and resume normal breathing.

In central sleep apnea, instead of the airways blocking, it is the brain that fails to signal the muscles responsible for breathing. This is usually because of a problem with the central nervous system and sleep apnea treatment using appliance therapy is not applicable. Mixed apnea on the other hand is a combination of both central and obstructive apnea symptoms.

How Sleep Apnea Appliance Therapy Works

Sleep apnea appliances are used on patients with obstructive apnea that ranges from mild to moderate. The devices help keep the airways open during sleep so that breathing is not interrupted. Before beginning to use any type of treatment for apnea, it is important to have a sleep study performed to determine the extent of the problem.

Patients with moderate to severe apnea are often highly advised to use CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. The device consists of 3 essential parts. There is the mask that is worn over the nose and mouth and has straps to keep it in place as you sleep. Then there is the motor that blows the air and the third is a cannula tube that connects to the motor and mask. The only challenge with this device is that it takes a lot of time to get used to. However, it is effective in ensuring that your airways do not get obstructed while you sleep.

At Millennium Smiles, dental devices are also used in some cases of obstructive apnea. The 2 main categories of dental appliances include mandibular advancement devices and tongue retaining mouthpieces.

Mandibular Advancement Devices

Mandibular advancement devices for sleep apnea look so much like sports mouthguards and orthodontic retainers. They are fit into the mouth by snapping them over the upper and lower arches. But unlike ordinary mouthguards, these have a metal hinges connecting the upper and lower pieces. The hinge helps push the lower jaw and tongue slightly forward which in turn prevents throat muscles from falling back into the airways and obstructing breathing. Most mandibular devices are adjustable and your dentist in Frisco, TX, will fine-tune the position of the jaw for optimum performance.

Tongue Retaining Devices

This works just like the name suggests. It is a device that helps hold your tongue in place during sleep. It may sometimes be referred to as a tongue stabilizing device and although they come in slightly different designs, they serve the same purpose. These devices are mostly made from silicone resin or a flexible plastic and are shaped to comfortably fit in the mouth. The idea is that the device holds onto the tongue and gently pulls it forward using gentle suction. Having the tongue slightly forward prevents it from restricting the airway.

If your obstructive sleep apnea causes you to snore while asleep, a tongue retaining device can help correct this. The devices usually look a bit like a goofy adult pacifier with a vacuum chamber at the front. You simply have to give the mouthpiece a small pinch at the back and put your tongue and then release the pinch so that the suction holds your tongue forward. This device is however not commonly used because of effects such as soreness and excess salivation.