Sleep Apnea Treatments & Sleep Apnea Appliances
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a persons breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night.
Sleep apnea occurs when you regularly stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. It can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of times in an hour that your breathing stops (apnea) or becomes very slow (hypopnea). Apnea episodes may occur from 5 to 50 times an hour.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea. This topic focuses on obstructive sleep apnea, which is also called OSA or simply sleep apnea.
What causes obstructive sleep apnea?
A blockage or narrowing of the airways in your nose, mouth, or throat generally causes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This usually occurs when the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep and partially block the airway.
Sleep apnea can also occur if you have bone deformities or larger than normal tissues in your nose, mouth, or throat. For example, you may have large tonsils. During the day when you are awake and standing up, this may not cause problems. However, when you lie down at night, your tonsils can press down on your airway, narrowing it and causing sleep apnea.
Other factors that make sleep apnea more likely include being obese, using certain medicines or alcohol before bed, and sleeping on your back.
Dental appliances, or oral mandibular advancement devices, can be made that prevent the tongue from occluding the throat and/or advance the lower jaw forward when one is lying down. These adjustments help keep the airway open during sleep. Such devices can be specifically designed by dentists with special expertise in treating sleep apnea.