People with obstructive sleep apnea experience periods of interrupted breathing when sleeping. As a result, they get poor quality sleep and tend to suffer from drowsiness and fatigue during the day. The condition is linked to snoring, and as with excessive snoring, the solution to the problem is often a dental appliance. A sleep apnea mouth guard can be a simple solution to a problem that severely impacts the lives of many people.
About Sleep Apnea
While not as serious as central sleep apnea, in which the brain periodically “forgets” to breathe, obstructive sleep apnea is often a serious medical condition. It’s diagnosed through an evaluation of the symptoms reported, and in some cases by observing the patient overnight in a clinical setting.
For moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, the most common treatment is a CPAP machine, which regulates air flow during sleep. However, using the machine involves wearing a plastic mask at night, which many people find difficult. For people with mild cases of sleep apnea, or for those for whom a CPAP machine doesn’t work, a dental appliance can be an effective alternative.
How a Sleep Apnea Mouth Guard Works
The “obstructive” part of obstructive sleep apnea comes from the soft tissues of the mouth, which can block the throat during sleep as facial and jaw muscles relax. The function of a mouth guard is to keep the jaw in place – in other words, in its natural daytime position. With the jaw advanced to its waking position, the tongue and other tissues don’t fall backward and obstruct the throat.
The ideal mouth guard for sleep apnea is one that is professionally molded to your mouth. However, custom-fitted mouth guards are typically hundreds of dollars, and the cost may not be covered by insurance. There are many over the counter alternatives available for much less. Most mouth guards advertised for snoring should also work to the same extent for sleep apnea (of course, if the product is poor, it might not work at all).
Dealing with obstructive sleep apnea usually involves the same sort of steps that help with snoring – losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and sleeping on your side, to name a few. Using a sleep apnea mouth guard is one more step forward and could solve the problem if the other measures don’t work. However, it’s important to stay in contact with your doctor to make sure you get professional guidance on dealing with what can be a serious medical condition.