If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the odds are good that you’ve been prescribed CPAP, the mask and pump arrangement that forces air into your lungs. CPAP works well, but for many people it’s too unpleasant to use. And if you’re not using it, CPAP doesn’t work at all.
Fortunately, there’s a more convenient alternative to CPAP for sleep apnea. Oral appliances are easy to use, comfortable to wear, and transportable. If you want to learn whether you are a candidate for oral appliance therapy, please call (910) 392-6060 for an appointment or contact Kuzma Advanced Dentistry in Wilmington, NC today.
Why You Need Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep apnea is a cornerstone condition that can lead to many life-threatening effects. People with severe sleep apnea can be up to 10 times more likely to die young. Overall, people with moderate to severe sleep apnea are 4-6 times more likely to die. Dangers associated with sleep apnea that contribute to this risk include:
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Type 2 diabetes
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Car accidents
- Workplace accidents
Many people with sleep apnea die before their condition is ever diagnosed, but many more have been diagnosed and prescribed treatment but just aren’t using it. If your sleep apnea is treated, your risks are reduced significantly. If your apnea is not treated, your risks remain.
Problems with CPAP
CPAP is a very effective sleep apnea treatment, but many people cannot tolerate it. Some of the problems that people report with CPAP include:
- Uncomfortable masks
- Skin irritation
- Inability to get to sleep or stay asleep
- Dry nose, mouth, or throat
- Irritation of nose, mouth, or throat
- Frequent illnesses
- Irritating sound
- Hard to set up
- Tangles or interferes with movement during sleep
It’s important to give your CPAP a fair chance, and you should try out some solutions to common problems. But if you can’t adapt, you still need to find a good solution for sleep apnea treatment that you can use.
Sleep Apnea Surgery
Surgery is sometimes recommended for sleep apnea, but most sleep apnea surgeries have limited evidence of effectiveness. Often, the long-term success rate is 50% or less. And considering the risks of serious surgical complications (elevated in patients with sleep apnea) and a number of minor side effects, surgery is not generally recommended as a sleep apnea treatment.
The only 100% effective surgery for sleep apnea is a tracheostomy, in which a hole is made in the throat and a tube is inserted to allow free breathing. This severe surgery has many potential complications, including psychological complications, and it is not often sought out.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Recently, oral appliance therapy has been recognized as the best alternative for people with sleep apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP. Oral appliances work by repositioning tissues of the mouth and throat to help keep the airway open. Typically, this is accomplished by changing the position of the jaw, which helps to support the airway.
An oral appliance avoids the problems many people experience with CPAP. It’s not a smothering device. It has no mask or hose. There’s no air pump. It doesn’t force air into you. You just put the oral appliance in your mouth before going to sleep. It’s a small device, easy to store, easy to care for, and easy to transport. It is the most convenient sleep apnea treatment available.
Oral appliances are also an effective sleep apnea treatment. For appropriate candidates, oral appliances can be as effective as CPAP. Insurance companies recognize the value and effectiveness of oral appliance therapy as a sleep apnea treatment, and most will cover oral appliances for appropriate candidates. In some cases, you may be asked to try CPAP first before your insurance will cover oral appliance therapy.