Ah, Sleep apnea. Several years ago, your primary care physician ordered a sleep study after you reached the brick wall. You were sick of dealing with chronic fatigue, irritability, poor concentration and snoring that was deafening. The result that came back: a diagnosis of moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which you learned caused frequent episodes in which you stopped breathing while you tried to sleep at night. Your doctor prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to lessen your symptoms and allow you to breathe.
Unfortunately, you never quite got used to wearing and using the CPAP mask. It is uncomfortable and irritated your skin. And the noise? You think it is actually louder than your snoring ever was. As a result, you stopped using the CPAP and you are back in the same boat you were a couple of years ago. Sound familiar? The good news is that the CPAP is not your only non-surgical option. There are oral appliances that can decrease your sleep apnea symptoms.
If you had orthodontic treatment and needed a retainer after your braces came off, an oral appliance to treat OSA is somewhat similar. With OSA, your airway is blocked while you sleep. An oral device is worn while a person sleeps to keep the airway open by preventing the tongue and throat muscles from collapsing. But how well does this treatment option really work?
A 2-year study published in Sleep followed 103 OSA patients in order to evaluate the effectiveness of an oral appliance versus CPAP for treatment. The benchmark that the group used to analyze success was looking at the patient’s apnea hypopnea index (AHI), which is the number of instances during an hour that the individual stops breathing due to their condition. If a patient dropped his or her to less than a 5 AHI, treatment was a success. AHI is also the rating system used to characterize the severity of OSA. The researchers concluded that for people with mild to moderate OSA, an appliance was effective. But if the individual had severe OSA, CPAP therapy was the best course of non-surgical treatment. The group also discovered that both treatment options improved the quality of sleep for patients but only CPAP helped raise blood oxygen levels.
A study conducted in Sweden achieved similar results. In the European Respiratory Journal, the group demonstrated that dental appliances were effective therapy and significantly improved patients’ sleep apnea. Additional research confirmed oral appliance effectiveness but in all studies, CPAP therapy still was determined to work the best in treatment of OSA as long as the patient was compliant.
If you or a loved one has OSA, find out what your treatment options, both non-surgical and surgical might be. Contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.