If the thought of wearing a bulky CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) mask every night to treat sleep apnea is less than appealing, then you’re not alone. Many people find that this therapy causes dry nasal passages, skin irritation and even feelings of claustrophobia. There is an alternative. An oral appliance may also be a viable option for you if you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea in McLean.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Before discussing oral appliances, let’s first examine sleep apnea. It’s actually a medical condition, and the most common form is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. In this case, the soft tissue in your throat as well as your tongue may fall back and block your airway while you relax during sleep.
When this happens, the oxygen level in your bloodstream drops. Then, your nervous system signals the brain to awaken the body so breathing starts again. This pattern can happen repeatedly during the night.
What Are the Signs of Sleep Apnea?
Although you should have a diagnosis at a sleep clinic in McLean, there are several telltale signs of sleep apnea. Loud snoring is the leading one among them.
Other common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Pauses in breathing
- Headaches when you wake up in the morning
- A dry mouth or sore throat when you awaken
- Daytime drowsiness
- Irritability and moodiness
Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea
The type of treatment that is best for you will depend how severe the condition. For moderate to severe sleep apnea, a CPAP is preferred. For mild to moderate sleep apnea, an oral appliance could be a workable alternative. Yours will be customized to fit comfortably in your mouth while you sleep.
An oral appliance for sleep apnea shifts your lower jaw forward slightly. This minor movement helps to keep you airway clear and provides more space for your tongue in your mouth.
Many patients find this form of sleep apnea therapy much more tolerable than a CPAP mask. In addition, an oral appliance is easily stored and convenient for traveling.
There are few risks to wearing an oral appliance. However, if you notice jaw pain, sore teeth or gums, greater salivation or a dry mouth, speak to your dentist. An adjustment to the appliance may be necessary.
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, don’t worry that treatment will be difficult or uncomfortable. Contact a sleep apnea specialist to schedule a consultation and learn more about oral appliances.
About the Author
Dr. Fred Farahi is a general and restorative dentist who has made sleep apnea treatment a priority in his practice. He knows that sleep apnea can have dangerous unforeseen consequences and is happy to offer oral appliances that reduce the risks associated with it. If you think you may have sleep apnea and have any additional questions, he can be contacted via his website or at (703) 854-9243.