Perhaps the best-known device for managing sleep apnea is the CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure). This somewhat bulky machine can be quite effective in keeping a constant flow of incoming air (which is the continuous positive airway) into the patient's lungs. This keeps the airways open and prevents the spontaneous cessation of breathing that's the hallmark of sleep apnea. Yet the CPAP machine, despite its benefits, has considerable flaws—namely its bulkiness and subsequent discomfort while wearing it. Is there another option?
Yes, it's possible that you will simply get used to sleeping with a CPAP machine by your bedside, connected to a breathing mask that is harnessed to your face. It doesn't sound especially comfortable though, does it? Depending on your physician's instructions, a CPAP machine may be the only treatment choice in your case. But depending on the severity of your condition, you can be referred to a specialist dentist for assistance.
This assistance takes the form of a mandibular advancement splint, made to fit precisely over your specific dental arches. The effectiveness of this device depends on its made-to-measure fit, meaning that the one-size-fits-all versions of this splint (which can be purchased online) will not be effective. And since the effectiveness of the device is what keeps your airways open, and therefore keeps you breathing, an inexpensive generic type of splint can even be dangerous.
How It Works
A mandibular advancement splint resembles a pair of thermoplastic aligners (much like invisible braces or a thin mouthguard). This is designed to precisely hug the contours of your upper and lower sets of teeth. It's made for you, and you alone, and this customized fit gives it the traction it needs to work. The aligners that grip your teeth are connected by high-tension elastics which subtly move your lower jaw forward. This movement is so minimal that you're unlikely to notice it. But this simple movement creates light tension in the muscles of your upper airway. Your airway then remains open while you sleep, meaning you breathe normally—and healthily. The device is deceptively simple but can be far more comfortable than an inconvenient CPAP machine. It feels about the same as wearing an overnight retainer.
You'll need to occasionally have the aligner trays relined to make sure they still fit perfectly, and the elastics may need to be periodically inspected, but it can be remarkable how simple it is to manage some forms of sleep apnea.
To learn more about sleep apnea treatment options, reach out to a local service provider.