Is a Dental Solution to Sleep Apnea Right For You?

Millions of Americans — and their partners — suffer from the effects of snoring. More than just a nuisance, snoring is often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Left untreated, OSA can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. It also leaves the sleeper feeling fatigued and at risk for falling asleep at work or even while driving. The most commonly prescribed treatment for OSA is therapy with a CPAP machine, but Dr. William Harper, a dentist in Hampton Roads, VA, can help with an alternative therapy in the form of an oral appliance that you wear while sleeping.

Q: What causes sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is most diagnosed in those suffering from obesity or excess weight. OSA happens when certain sleep positions can cause the airway to become obstructed as the muscles relax during sleep, restricting airflow to the rest of the body including the heart and the brain. The sleeper can awaken multiple times during the night gasping for air and typically feels tired, falls asleep during the day, and has issues with memory and concentration during the day.

Q: I thought the only option for sleep apnea was CPAP therapy. How does the oral appliance work?

While CPAP therapy is certainly the most common treatment for sleep apnea, an oral appliance can provide a similar result. Both therapies are different ways of holding the airway open during sleep, when the soft tissue in the mouth are more relaxed.

With CPAP, a constant airflow keeps the airway open during sleep. With the custom-fitted oral appliance, the device repositions the bottom jaw, moving it forward to keep the soft tissue from collapsing over the airway. The appliance is sturdy enough to withstand bruxism — teeth grinding — so even nighttime teeth-grinders can benefit from the device.

Q: How comfortable is a sleep apnea oral appliance?

Dr. Harper meets with patients for an individual consultation where they will examine the mouth and make sure your appliance is fitted correctly and comfortably. The device does reposition the jaw, but it’s designed to fit comfortably inside the mouth, disrupting sleep as little as possible. Most users report a reduction in snoring while using the oral appliance, leading to better sleep and more productive days!

Q: Do I have to see a dentist to get it?

What makes this oral device comfortable and effective is how well it fits the individual patient’s mouth. Dr. Harper will meet with you to discuss your needs, gather precise measurements and your mouth’s specific details, and will work with you to make sure the device is as comfortable as possible. Our caring staff at our office in Hampton Roads, VA wants to help you get better sleep. Call 757.414.7227 or schedule an appointment online today.