Oral Appliance Therapy Treatment Protocol
Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea affects 18 million Americans, though people may not be aware that they are experiencing it. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing in the middle of your sleep, due to obstruction in your airway when your soft tissues collapse naturally. Your brain will rouse you awake (whether or not you are conscious) so that the airway is unblocked. In the course of a night, people with sleep apnea may “wake up” hundreds of times – often times without even realizing it.
With obstructive sleep apnea, this poor quality of sleep leads to a number of issues during the waking hours, from drowsiness and daytime fatigue to irritation and concentration problems. More severe cases could lead to a number of more serious medical consequences, such as cardiovascular issues.
The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are: loud or frequent snoring, silent pauses in breathing, choking or gasping sounds, daytime sleepiness or fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, insomnia, or morning headaches, to name a few. Because you’re generally sleeping when you experience obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important to pay attention to the symptoms while you’re awake.
If you believe you – or your loved one – might be experiencing obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important to seek treatment. Oral appliance therapy is one form of treatment that is effective and convenient. Here are the steps to take to receive therapy with an oral appliance for sleep apnea.
Steps in Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea with Oral Appliance Therapy
If you have already been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea…
If you have already been diagnosed by your physician or sleep specialist, contact us at Sound Sleep Medical to begin the process for your oral appliance therapy. Our team will provide a complete clinical examination, which will determine your current health and examine the oral tissues that may affected by the oral appliance. Based on the findings of our evaluation, we will review the different options of oral appliances available to meet your needs.
If you have not yet been diagnosed with a sleeping disorder but suspect you may have one..
If you have not yet been diagnosed with a sleeping disorder but suspect you may have one, the first step is to set up a consultation with us at Sound Sleep Medical. We provide sleep breathing disorder screenings. From our results of your screening, if we believe a sleep disorder is present, we will refer you to a trusted sleep specialist for a polysomnogram (sleep test).
The Next Steps
Treatment with Oral Appliance Therapy
For milder cases of obstructive sleep therapy, we recommend oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances resemble an orthodontic appliance or mouth guard used by athletes. Think of it as a sleep apnea mouth guard. Oral appliance therapy is worn only during sleep, fitting in your mouth as a “scaffolding” for the internal structures and preventing the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat. It also anchors the upper and lower teeth, while extending the lower jaw. This support enables your airway to remain open for easy breathing and a good night’s sleep.
In your consultation with a sleep specialist, you’ll review your symptoms, provide information on your family’s medical history, as well as your own medical history, and have a physical examination. It is especially helpful, if you sleep with a partner, to ask them about your sleep patterns. Ask them to write down what they recall about how you sleep (snoring, choking sounds, gasping sounds, etc.), since you would not know this information on your own.
Following this consultation, your sleep specialist will perform a physical examination of your nose, mouth, and throat area, checking for any abnormal or large tissue. In adults, an enlarged soft palate or uvula could contribute to obstructive sleep apnea.
The next step is the sleep test. There are two options, determined by your sleep specialist:
- A polysomnogram or a home sleep test. A polysomnogram is more accurate in determining whether you have obstructive sleep apnea, as it requires you to be observed by a team of professionals while you sleep. A polysomnogram also records movements you make throughout the night (arms, legs, chest, etc.), the amount of oxygen in your blood, snoring, and the air movement through your nostrils.
- A home sleep test does the same thing – except it’s a portable machine that you set up in your own home.
If obstructive sleep apnea is found, we will work with you to determine the best course of action moving forward. In severe cases, we may recommend a split-sleep study in which you sleep half of the night with a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) device, to see if it helps the quality of your sleep.