Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening medical disorder. It is characterized by repeated breathing pauses during sleep. These pauses can last from several seconds to minutes, and can happen as often as thirty times per hour. This disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream because not enough oxygen is entering and not enough carbon dioxide is exiting the body.
Several dental devices have been designed to alleviate this condition. Most of these operate by separating the jaws and pushing them slightly forward. This repositioning opens up the airway and allows oxygen to flow freely. Patients who use sleep apnea devices report that they feel more comfortable going to sleep, they stop loud snoring, and feel more rested when they awaken. These devices are most effective when used by patients that are not significantly overweight. They are a viable alternative to CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices.
There are two categories of dental devices used for sleep apnea: fixed and adjustable. Commonly used devices are:
TAP 3 (Thornton Adjustable Positioner)
This is a two-part, custom made sleep appliance that fits over the teeth the same way as a mouthguard worn for sports. The TAP 3 moves the jaw forward to keep the tongue and soft tissues from blocking the airway. The lower jaw position is adjustable so that it can be moved to make it more comfortable. The TAP 3 can accommodate the three major types of malocclusion and will allow the lips to close fully.
The OASYS appliance moves the jawbone slightly forward so that the base of the tongue is moved toward the front of the mouth. This shift opens the airway. An extension of the appliance extends toward the nose and creates a larger nasal opening and a better airflow. This appliance is adjustable and comfortable to wear.
This appliance is made from Variflex heat softening acrylic which makes it easy to insert. Running warm water over this appliance will make it pliable, then it hardens once placed in the mouth. It is designed to move the jaw forward in .25mm increments. This maximizes comfort for the patient.
Herbst Telescopic Appliance
This uses friction grips and metal clasps to hold the appliance in the mouth. It is acrylic with adjustable metal wiring. This allows the patient to move laterally and vertically without dislodging the appliance. It is used in mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea and it can also minimize snoring effectively.
If you have any questions or concerns about sleep apnea appliances, please call or contact our office.