Sleep apnea and dental devices
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea affects the way you breathe when you're sleeping. In untreated sleep apnea, breathing is briefly interrupted or becomes very shallow during sleep. These breathing pauses typically last between 10 to 20 seconds and can occur up to hundreds of times a night.
Untreated sleep apnea prevents you from getting a good night's sleep. When breathing is paused, you're jolted out of your natural sleep rhythm. As a consequence, you spend more time in light sleep and less time in the deep, restorative sleep you need to be energetic, mentally sharp, and productive the next day.
This chronic sleep deprivation results in daytime sleepiness, slow reflexes, poor concentration, and an increased risk of accidents. Sleep apnea can also lead to serious health problems over time, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and weight gain. But with treatment, you can control the symptoms, get your sleep back on track, and start enjoying what it's like to be refreshed and alert every day.
Types of Sleep Apnea
- Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes during sleep, causing a blockage of the airway (as well as loud snoring).
- Central sleep apnea is a much less common type of sleep apnea that involves the central nervous system, rather than an airway obstruction. It occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing. People with central sleep apnea seldom snore.
- Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Major signs and symptoms of sleep apnea
- Loud and chronic snoring
- Choking, snorting, or gasping during sleep
- Long pauses in breathing
- Daytime sleepiness, no matter how much time you spend in bed
Other common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Restless or fitful sleep
- Insomnia or nighttime awakenings
- Going to the bathroom frequently during the night
- Waking up feeling out of breath
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness, irritability, or depression
Dental devices for sleep apnea
Most dental devices are acrylic and fit inside your mouth, much like an athletic mouth guard. Others fit around your head and chin to adjust the position of your lower jaw. Two common oral devices are the mandibular repositioning device and the tongue retaining device. These devices open your airway by bringing your lower jaw or your tongue forward during sleep.
Dental devices are only effective for mild to moderate sleep apnea. There are also a number of troubling s