Sleep Apnea: Oral Appliances Make Treatment Easier

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a very common and potentially life-threatening medical disorder that occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked by excess tissue, large tonsils or the collapsing of relaxed muscles during sleep. If the blockage prevents adequate air intake, it can cause a reduction of oxygen in the blood. 

Risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes is higher among people who have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. In addition, individuals with this condition are more likely to have car accidents due to chronic daytime sleepiness. 

More than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, many of whom have not been diagnosed. Anyone can develop this condition, but it most commonly affects people who are middle aged or older and those who are overweight. 

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If you have any of the following symptoms, speak to your doctor about whether you might have Obstructive Sleep Apnea or another sleep disorder.   

•    Snoring

•    Waking up choking or gasping for breath

•    Waking up unrefreshed

•    Excessive daytime sleepiness

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•    Morning headaches or migraines

•    Forgetfulness and lack of concentration

•    Fatigue

•    Sleepiness while driving

•    Irritability, depression,  mood swings or personality changes

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•    Decrease in sex drive


Diagnosing a Sleep Disorder

The standard for diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea and most other sleep disorders is a sleep study. This noninvasive overnight evaluation, conducted in a sleep center, provides information about a person’s sleep patterns, breathing, level of oxygen in the blood, electrical activity of the heart and muscle activity. 

CPAP Therapy 

The most common non-surgical treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (or CPAP) therapy, which requires the patient to wear a mask or nose piece that is hooked up to a hose coming from a small machine. Air blows through the hose and into the throat, keeping the airway open. 

Oral Appliance Therapy

For patients who have been diagnosed with mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea and have not had success with CPAP therapy, oral appliance therapy is an excellent option. The oral appliance fits in the mouth like an orthodontic retainer and helps prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissue in the back of the throat during sleep, keeping the airway open and promoting adequate air intake. 

The oral appliance fits in the mouth like an orthodontic retainer and helps prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissue in the back of the throat during sleep, keeping the airway open and promoting adequate air intake.

An oral appliance is easy to use, comfortable, and small enough to bring along when traveling. Most people become accustomed to wearing their oral appliance in a couple of weeks. This form of therapy is covered by Medicare and most medical insurances. 

Ensuring a Proper Fit

Although oral appliances of various types have been on the market since the 1980s, it was not until 2012 that the FDA approved a product that helps determine the most effective settings for these devices. The Sleep Center at Phelps now offers a new service called an oral appliance titration for patients who want to pursue oral appliance therapy. During the study, which is done overnight in the Sleep Center, a sleep technologist uses cutting-edge technology to monitor and remotely adjust the oral appliance (in tenths-of-a-millimeter increments) while the patient sleeps. The results are evaluated by one of the Sleep Center’s board-certified sleep medicine physicians, who determines whether an oral appliance is effective for treating the patient’s sleep apnea. If so, precise settings for the appliance are calculated and given to a dentist to custom make an oral appliance to fit the patient. 

The oral appliance titration method Phelps uses is less intrusive and more effective than the process used in most other sleep centers, where the technologist wakes up the patient multiple times throughout the night to manually adjust the device inside the patient’s mouth. In addition to disrupting the patient’s sleep, which detracts from the study, it is a much less precise method since the adjustments cannot be finely calibrated.   

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep 

Adequate sleep is essential to our health and our ability to function mentally and physically. Treating a sleep disorder can improve quality of life in many ways.

The Phelps Sleep Center

The Sleep Center at Phelps is fully accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It is staffed by physicians who are board certified in sleep medicine and by authorized polysomnographic technologists. Patients are provided with a private bedroom and bathroom, as well as amenities such as in-room television and continental breakfast. In addition to nighttime sleep studies, the center also offers sleep studies during the day for patients who are shift workers or who usually sleep during the day, and daytime PAP-NAP studies, which provide one-on-one time with a sleep technologist to address specific issues a patient may be having with CPAP therapy. 

If you would like to schedule a sleep study or learn about treatments for sleep disorders, contact the Phelps Sleep Center at 914-366-3626.

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