Sleep apnea is a disorder that stems from an irregular breathing pattern during sleep. According to the American Lung Association, around 10 – 30% of American adults suffer from some form of sleep apnea.
In addition to causing significant daytime lethargy, irritability, and fatigue, untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing severe- even life-threatening medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and high blood sugar levels. Therefore, sleep apnea should be taken seriously, and treatment should be sought as soon as possible to avoid complications.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Treatment of sleep apnea involves the management of the underlying problem. Here are some of the treatment modalities that can be used for treating sleep apnea:
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) Devices
Positive Airway Pressure Devices are the most commonly used treatment option for managing moderate to severe sleep apnea. The device consists of a mask that is worn over the nose – and sometimes the mouth as well. The device supplies pressured air that flows through the patient’s throat and prevents the airway’s obstruction. The PAP devices are also helpful in snoring that is caused due to airway obstruction. The American Lung Association recommends that a PAP device should be used every night for optimal results.
These are removable appliances, just like a sports mouthguard or an orthodontic appliance. This device is designed to hold the lower jaw in a forward position to ensure airway patency and prevent the tongue and throat muscles from falling back during sleep – and obstructing the airway. The American Sleep Association (ASA) has approved oral appliance therapy (AOT) as the choice treatment to manage mild to moderate sleep apnea. It is also recommended for individuals with severe sleep apnea who are unable to tolerate a PAP device.
The BiPAP, or the BiLevel PAP Therapy, works similarly to the conventional PAP devices. However, instead of utilizing a single pressure source, the BiPAP devices use two pressures – a higher inhale pressure and a lower exhale pressure. The BiPAP devices are an alternative to the PAP appliance when patients have co-existing breathing problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Adaptive Servo Ventilation
Also recommended as an alternative to the PAP devices, this appliance continuously monitors the breathing cycles – or transient cessation in breathing during sleep – and adjusts the pressure of the deliverer air accordingly. This device is useful for patients suffering from central sleep apnea.
The expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) devices create resistance during exhalation. These devices are attached to the nostrils like a bandage with the help of an adhesive.
Oral Pressure Therapy
This technology utilizes vacuum pressure to suction the soft palate towards the middle of the mouth; thereby widening the airway and improving breathing.
The continuous negative external pressure technology creates negative pressure around the neck area to keep the airway patent during sleep.
Apart from medical devices, dentists sometimes have to rely on surgery to treat severe sleep apnea cases. Besides, mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea can also be managed without medical intervention through weight reduction and restricting tobacco and alcohol intake. However, your general physician or dentist is the best person to recommend a treatment option that best suits your needs.
Schedule a consult with one of our top Chicago dentists at 773-481-2200.