Dental Work Can Help You Sleep

Oral Appliance Therapy Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a term unknown to some by known by many others. Consider the following: Do you wake up with headaches in the morning or perhaps dry mouth or a sore throat? These symptoms may also be coupled with others such as sleepiness/fatigue, frequent snoring, or gasping during your sleep. If you have symptoms such as these, you may have a condition such as sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea can make it incredibly difficult to get a full night’s rest. The right dental device can help fix the problems that keep you up at night so you can rest peacefully.

Custom Dental Appliances for Sleep Apnea

It may not occur to you to talk to your dentist about your sleep apnea issues, but we can help!  Sleep apnea is a common condition affecting one out of five adults in the U.S. Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies doctors have successfully diagnosed and treated patients with sleep apnea therapy, helping them get the much-needed sleep they deserve.

How do we do this? Through custom dental devices that are designed to keep your airways open as you sleep, so you can avoid using a machine or having to undergo surgery.

If you are suffering from sleep apnea, and would like to know more about sleep apnea therapy, our Fort Collins office can help you.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Signs & Symptoms

According to the American Academy of Dental Sleep Dentistry, roughly 25 million adults in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), often causing them to stop breathing hundreds of times a night from a few seconds to more than a minute (in some cases) followed by brief awakenings.  This disorder is not only life-threatening (depending on its severity) but seriously compromises your long-term health by not allowing you to get proper sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when the muscles around your tongue and throat relax, blocking the normal air flow to your lungs during sleep. The warning signs for obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • frequent snoring, choking, or gasping while you sleep
  • insomnia, disrupted sleep
  • dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
  • headaches in the morning
  • frequent daytime sleepiness/fatigue
  • moodiness, decreased mental and emotional functioning

Treatment Options

Dr. Murri and Dr. Willey at  Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies prescribe treatment based on the connection between oral health and total body wellness.  You can achieve optimum health through sleep apnea therapy. Our approach with patients with sleep apnea, has restored normal sleeping patterns in our patients and restored vitality to their lives.

After a thorough evaluation and diagnostic tests have confirmed that you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea your choices of treatment include: 1) Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy; 2) oral appliance therapy; and 3) surgery.  

Our Fort Collins Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies practice does not offer CPAP therapy or surgical options, but supports the minimally invasive, comfortable treatment option found through oral appliance therapy. Choosing the most minimally invasive treatment option first for your sleep apnea therapy should be tried first before more invasive options are explored.

What is CPAP Therapy?

CPAP therapy involves wearing a face mask while you sleep, connected to tubing from a constantly running machine–not the most convenient or comfortable option for treating this condition. Surgical options are prescribed when other treatment options fail and must be performed by a trained Otolaryngologist.

What are the Surgical Options for Sleep Apnea?

Surgical options involve surgical enlargement and stabilization inside the airway by a trained Otolaryngologist (physicians trained in the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck commonly referred to as ENT physicians.)

For those patients with developmental or structural changes of the jaw or other facial bones, surgical or orthodontic procedures on the bones of the face, jaw, or hard palate (roof of the mouth), surgery may be beneficial.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Mild to moderate sleep apnea responds well to oral appliance therapy with a custom-made sleep apnea dental appliance.  More than 100 oral appliances have received FDA clearance, but we recommend two specific devices for our sleep apnea patients:

Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD)

This is the most commonly prescribed mouth device for sleep apnea.  It helps address your sleep apnea symptoms by moving the jaw forward, which increases the size of your airway. This is also effective for preventing snoring.  Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs) also improve the strength and rigidity of the airway by increasing the muscle activity of the tongue and other muscles of the airway.

Tongue Retaining Devices (TRD)

Like MADs, Tongue Retaining Devices (TRDs) also work for mild to moderate sleep apnea patients by holding the tongue in a forward position while you sleep. These devices pull the tongue forward, but instead of moving the jaw forward like a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), TRDs directly control the tongue itself. In some cases, Tongue Retaining Devices (TRDs) have decreased therapeutic complications compared to MADs, but TRDs can also be less comfortable and generally take several weeks or months to be worn comfortably.

What Oral Appliance Therapy Involves

Oral appliance therapy can effectively treat the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. It is important to note up front that there will be an adjustment period as your body and mouth get used to having an apparatus in while you sleep.  

You may experience jaw pain, movement of teeth, dry lips and/or dry mouth during oral appliance therapy as you adjust to the appliance.  

If you find that your mouthpiece is causing you too much discomfort following the typical adjustment period, call our Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies office and we can arrange a follow-up visit so we can help your appliance fit/work better for you.

Lifestyle Changes that Help Treat Sleep Apnea

While there is much out of our control when it comes to diseases and conditions, mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea symptoms have responded well to certain behavioral/lifestyle changes like:  sleeping on your side, losing excess weight, and abstaining from smoking and drinking alcohol.

Why Sleep Apnea Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Sleep apnea is not a condition that you want to easily dismiss or ignore.  Insufficient sleep damages your mind and body in a myriad of ways and has been found to put you at risk for certain health risks like:

  • Morning headaches
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic acid reflux
  • Memory loss
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Increased risk for motor vehicle/work-related accidents
  • Death (in severe cases if not treated)

Your risk for developing sleep apnea can be augmented by a variety of factors like:

  • Having a thick neck
  • Having a narrow throat
  • Being male
  • Being older
  • Being overweight
  • Excessive use of alcohol, tranquilizers, and sedatives
  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Persistent nasal congestion

Drs. Murri and Willey are anxious to talk to you about treatment options for your obstructive sleep apnea to get you on the road to better wellness and eliminate your risks for developing serious health complications from the condition.  Oral appliance therapy may be for you. Find out through an in-office consultation.

Schedule a Sleep Apnea Therapy Consultation

Sleep apnea can be a serious condition if you don’t seek treatment. Learn more about what we can offer you by calling our Fort Collins office today at (970) 223-6101. For your convenience, you can also reach us online by submitting a contact or appointment request using the form below.