Getting more sleep is a significant priority for many Canadians. For those who have sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea keeping them up at night, it can be a challenge. The good news is that there are plenty of treatment options available, including oral appliances that can restore the air passages and lead to a full night of sleep and better overall health.
Custom-Made Oral Appliances for Sleep Disorders
Oral appliances can help reduce the negative effects of sleep disorders. People with these disorders tend to suffer from side effects, such as daytime sleepiness. These effects can impact your lifestyle and cause other health problems.
In many cases, your dentist will recommend a custom-made appliance that fits your mouth and is designed with your specific needs in mind.
Two of the most common sleep disorders that can be treated with oral appliance therapy are snoring and sleep apnea.
Snoring is the result of air being obstructed as it passes through your mouth, nasal passages, and throat while you sleep. The result is a vibration in the nearby tissue, which leads to the noise we all associate with snoring.
Not all people snore, and sometimes, snoring can come and go with life changes. It can also be loud and constant or soft and infrequent.
Many people wonder why snoring happens and what actions they can take to stop snoring. Snoring is often the result of a combination of factors that range from your genetics to your physiology to your lifestyle.
Some of the most common factors that lead to snoring include:
- Sinus issues
- The shape of the roof of your mouth
- The consumption of alcohol and tobacco
- Being overweight
- Injuries that cause jaw misalignment
- Nose and throat conditions, such as enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum
- Sleeping position
Snoring can also be a sign of a more serious problem known as sleep apnea. If you snore often and you notice other disturbances in your sleep, such as gasping or wheezing, be sure to see a doctor or dentist to be tested for sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which patients start and stop breathing throughout the night. This is usually the result of relaxation in the muscles at the back of your throat. When these muscles relax too much, surrounding tissues such as the soft palate, tongue, and nasal passages also relax, which can cause the airway to narrow.
Sleep apnea reduces the amount of air a person breathes in, which also lowers the blood’s oxygen level. This is why sleep apnea can be a dangerous condition with serious health concerns.
A common sign of sleep apnea is waking up abruptly multiple times throughout the night. When the brain senses that the oxygen level in the blood is low, it wakes you up so that your air passages reopen. In most cases, the interruption to sleep is so short that you won’t remember waking up at all, but your sleep partner may.
Sleep apnea can interrupt normal sleep phases and prevent you from achieving deep sleep throughout the night, which is why many people with the condition find themselves feeling sleepy throughout the day.
Sleep apnea is often linked to a variety of other illnesses and conditions, including diabetes and obesity. It can also have severe effects on the cardiovascular system, putting patients at risk of hypertension, strokes, and heart attacks.
If you believe you have sleep apnea, your dentist can perform a variety of tests and examinations to check the tissues in your air passages. After that, a sleep study (at home or in a sleep clinic) may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is often used as part of a sleep apnea treatment plan. CPAP machines prevent the airway from collapsing or narrowing by applying air pressure inside the mouth. They provide a non-surgical approach to managing sleep apnea.
There are several types of CPAP masks available, including:
- Nasal continuous positive air pressure (NCPAP), which covers the nose but not the mouth
- A mask that covers both the nose and mouth
- Two prongs that are fitting inside the nose
If you find one type of machine difficult to adjust to, be sure to ask your dentist or orthodontist about trying another type of mask.
Although many people experience better sleep and better overall health with a CPAP machine, using it may result in side effects, including:
- A dry nose or throat
- A sore throat
- Skin irritation around the mask
- Nasal congestion
- A runny nose and sneezing
Most of these will clear up as you begin to adjust to wearing the mask, but be sure to bring any concerns up with your dentist. If you start to have more serious side effects such as regular nosebleeds, be sure to seek out medical advice from your dentist or doctor.
Sleep Apnea and Anti-Snoring Mouthpieces
Mouthpieces are custom-fitted by your dentist as a non-invasive sleep apnea and snoring solution. The mouthpiece shifts the tongue and lower jaw into a forward position to keep the upper airways open and unobstructed.
One example of a mouthpiece for snoring and sleep apnea is called a mandibular advancement device (MAD), which helps to shift the jaw forward. These are often compared to retainers or mouth guards because they have a similar shape and structure. However, unlike retainers, these mouthpieces are worn only while sleeping.
Another mouthpiece that can be used is called a tongue-retaining device, which uses a splint to keep the tongue pushed down.
If you have sleep apnea, your dentist may recommend trying a mouthpiece as a treatment option before prescribing a more invasive solution, such as a CPAP machine or surgery. These can also be an excellent option for people who find they can’t sleep well with a CPAP machine.
Other Ways to Stop Snoring
- If you’re overweight, start a weight loss plan that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise. Once you lose weight, you’ll likely see a major improvement as there is less pressure on your neck.
- Reducing snoring can also be achieved by cutting down on substances like alcohol and tobacco, especially before bed.
- Try out different sleeping postures. In some cases, snoring is brought on by sleeping on your back or side.
- Try a saline nasal rinse if you have a stuffy nose before bedtime. You can also try nasal strips or a nasal decongestant. Allergy medications and keeping your bedroom free of dust, pet dander, and other allergens can also reduce snoring.
- Try a humidifier in your bedroom to reduce irritation in your nose and throat.
- Avoid sleeping pills and sedatives, which will further relax the muscles in your throat.
- Avoid dairy, soy, and large meals right before bed.
If you find that these techniques aren’t working for you and you’re concerned about your health, be sure to talk to your dentist or doctor about diagnosis and treatment options for snoring and sleep apnea.
Learn More About Sleep Apnea and Anti-Snoring Devices
If you’re focused on improving your sleep and health, oral appliances for snoring and sleep apnea can help. Visit a dentist near you to get testing and/or a sleep study to confirm whether you have a sleep disorder. Many of the dentists in the 123Dentist network offer oral appliances for snoring and sleep apnea. Find one near you today!