Millions of people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea. It is a sleep disorder that is caused by your airways being blocked by the tongue and soft tissues tilting towards the back of the throat while you are asleep. As a result, you will experience short periods of time when your breathing is stopped. You may also begin to breathe through your mouth while still asleep. This can result in your mouth become dry, creating conditions in your mouth than can negatively impact your oral health.
While the continuous positive air pressure (or CPAP machine) is a highly recommended treatment device for sleep apnea, there are other options. Sufferers also have the option of using specialized mouthpieces for moderate cases of sleep apnea if the CPAP machine is not effective or if they have difficulty maintaining the treatment.
Mouthpieces for Sleep Apnea
One of the advantages a mouthpiece, or oral appliance, as it is sometimes called, has over a CPAP machine is that it can be it can be customized to fit your mouth. To use a CPAP machine, you have placed a mask over your mouth that is connected to a machine that provides high pressure, oxygenated air while you are asleep. However, many CPAP users find that the machine can be uncomfortable, and even unbearable.
Your dentist or orthodontist can create a custom-fit mouthpiece, typically made from plastic, that you can use to prevent sleep apnea symptoms. It works by adjusting your tongue and lower jaw forward so that your airways remain unobstructed while you are sleeping. While there are over-the-counter mouthpieces you can use, it is not uncommon for them to not work and not provide the comfortable fit a mouthpiece that is designed from a mold of your mouth would provide.
Another advantage of using mouthpieces as a sleep apnea treatment is that they are more discreet. They do not require electricity to operate, and you are also able to find almost immediate relief from your sleep disorder.
Getting Used to the Oral Appliance
Even though your mouthpiece or oral appliance is custom-made, it will still take a period to get used to wearing the device. Because the devices are adjustable, your dental professional will be able to make the necessary corrections to ensure that your jaw position is where it should be. You should expect to have your progress constantly monitored, which is why it is important that you adhere to the follow-up appointments your dentist will schedule. During each follow-up visit, your dentist will make sure that the mouthpiece is working, is properly fitted and that there are improvements in your sleep apnea symptoms.
Tips for Using Your Mouthpiece
- Expect there to be several adjustments made to the mouthpiece before the fit feels just right and it is working properly.
- Remember that the device only alleviates the symptoms of sleep apnea; it does not cure it.
- Keep the mouthpiece cleaning using the instructions provided by your dentist.
- When you are not using the mouthpiece, make sure it is stored in a case.