Did you know that it is estimated that at least 75% of the population suffer from obstructive sleep apnea? It not only causes fatigue and severe daytime drowsiness, but many other problems such as poor memory, clouded intellect, personality changes, irritability, decreased sex drive, impotence, morning headaches and many health problems. Obstructive sleep apnea contributes to cardiovascular disease, as well as conditions such as hypertension, stroke, heart attacks and heart disease.
What causes snoring and OSA? During normal sleep, we breathe air in through our mouth and nose into our airway. If the muscles of the tongue and palate fall back into the airway, they can constrict the airway or completely close it off. When constricted the air causes the muscles to vibrate, thus causing snoring. When the airway is completely closed off, this causes an apnic event to occur (stop breathing) which causes your brain to wake you to start breathing again. Thus someone’s quality of sleep is greatly affected by these continuous awakenings or arousals throughout the night.
The first and most effective treatment for OSA is a CPAP machine. Unfortunately, many people cannot tolerate wearing their CPAP and end up doing nothing to help their condition. Oral appliance therapy is an alternative to CPAP. An oral appliance is a small plastic device that fits over the teeth, just like an orthodontic retainer or mouth guard. The appliance is worn in the mouth during sleep to prevent the soft tissue of the throat from collapsing and obstructing the airway. Oral appliances work by slightly advancing the lower jaw which in turn moves the base of the tongue forward and opens the airway to allow improved breathing and reduced snoring and apneas during sleep.