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A man, suffering from sleep apnea, sleeps with his mouth open.

How Your Dentist Can Help Your Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea?

Individuals with sleep apnea will stop breathing at different times throughout their sleep cycles. There are two main types of this chronic condition, namely obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway’s soft tissue collapses, causing an interruption in breath. This collapse prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs. Central sleep apnea is different in that the cause of the interruptions in the breath is due to the brain not sending messages to the body to breathe during sleep.

Both types of sleep apnea are disruptive to sleep patterns and typically leave people feeling tired and lethargic. If left untreated, sleep apnea can have a significant impact on short and long-term mental and physical health.

What Your Dentist Can Do About Your Sleep Apnea

There are different oral appliances that people who suffer from sleep apnea can use to ease the condition’s symptoms.

Mandibular advancement devices, or dental sleep devices, are the most commonly used oral appliances for sleep apnea. These devices push the lower jaw forward, which prevents the muscles in the airways from collapsing during an apnea (interruption of breath). Over time, these devices can permanently strengthen the airways and reduce or eliminate apneas.

Your dentist will first assess your teeth, mouth, and temporomandibular joints to determine whether you are a good candidate for a mandibular advancement device. If the device is recommended by your dentist and you are a suitable candidate, a model of your teeth will be created and used to craft the device. Once the device has been made and fits correctly, you will be required to wear the device while you sleep.

Another less common appliance is the tongue-retaining device. These oral appliances hold the patient’s tongue in a forward position, which also pushes the lower jaw forward and keeps the airways open.

While the devices may be uncomfortable at first, many users adjust after the first few uses. With regular monitoring and continued use, patients who use oral appliances get the best results and are able to overcome their sleep apnea.

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