Many patients still mistakenly believe that CPAP therapy is the only option available for treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Thankfully, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine agrees that oral appliance therapy from an experienced and qualified dental professional like Dr. Tim Stirneman here at Sleep Better Illinois can also provide much-needed relief. This is wonderful news for patients who have proven to be intolerant of the bulky facial masks and loud noises associated with traditional CPAP care.
Is Oral Appliance Therapy Right For Me?
There are several cases where oral appliance therapy is a worthwhile alternative to CPAP treatment. These include:
- If a patient is suffering from mild to moderate apnea and they’ve undergone no treatment for their condition yet.
- If a patient is intolerant to CPAP treatment.
- If a patient is struggling with loud, chronic snoring but is not experiencing actual sleep apnea as of now.
- If a sleep apnea patient travels often and is in need of a portable treatment option.
- If a patient has undergone surgery and achieved little to no relief from their sleep apnea symptoms.
- If a patient with severe sleep apnea is in need of combination therapy with both CPAP treatment and an oral appliance.
A WORTHWHILE ALTERNATIVE TO CPAP INTOLERANCE
Have you ever undergone training for CPR? If so, you know that the first step to clearing a patient’s airway is positioning their jaw forward at a slight angle. Oral appliance therapy follows this same basic step. Your nightguard will be personalized to comfortably fit your unique mouth and carefully shift the jaw’s natural resting position forward; this keeps the airway open and unblocked, significantly reducing your chances of experiencing sleep apnea occurrences. The oral appliance will be simple to remove, easy to keep clean, and convenient for storage and travel.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM ORAL APPLIANCE THERAPY?
After relying on oral appliance therapy for some time, most sleep apnea patients report that their adjustment period was significantly more comfortable and shorter when compared to CPAP treatment. However, patients should still be aware of some potential side effects that may occur when using an oral appliance. These effects are typically very minor, and they should cease to be problems within a few weeks of diligent use. They include:
- Soreness in the teeth and/or gums.
- A change in your saliva production (could be an increase or decrease).
- A change in the way your bite fits together.
- Tension, clicking, or any kind of discomfort located in the jaw.
Like with most other medical specialties, two professional organizations have set the essential standards of patient diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of sleep apnea. They are known as The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). Both of these excellent organizations provide needed guidance, certification for medical professionals, and plenty of helpful continuing education that our team at Sleep Better Illinois takes advantage of whenever possible. Dr. Stirneman is always striving to raise the bar when it comes to the wellbeing of our patients!
The AASM and AADSM recommend that patients pursue sleep apnea treatment with oral appliance therapy under the following conditions:
- Patients who struggle with excessively loud and constant snoring can reduce or even eliminate their condition by utilizing a custom oral appliance provided by a skilled dentist. In these cases, oral appliance therapy may actually prevent the development of sleep apnea altogether.
- Patients should seek out custom oral appliance therapy from a properly trained and qualified dental professional instead of relying on non-custom (“one size fits all”) devices. This will significantly increase their compliance and the appliance’s effectiveness.
- If a patient is intolerant to CPAP treatment, travels on a routine basis, or is simply unable to use their CPAP system to the degree required, sleep physicians should refer their patients to a dentist who is experienced in oral appliance therapy and form a partnership with them to ensure the greatest chances of successful treatment.
- Patients who are fitted for a custom oral appliance need to return for follow-up care on a regular basis. Their dentist will make any necessary adjustments to their oral appliance and provide needed guidance.
- Once a patient has received a customized oral appliance from their dentist, it’s strongly recommended that they also attend a follow-up appointment with their sleep physician. This will allow the doctor to ensure that the appliance is effective in reducing the severity of their sleep apnea.
- Sleep apnea patients undergoing oral appliance therapy are encouraged to maintain regular appointments with both their dentist and sleep specialist to maintain successful results.
Here in Lake in the Hills, IL, Dr. Stirneman and the rest of our team are proud to offer both oral appliance therapy and combined therapy to sleep apnea patients in need. Would you like to find out more about this transformative and convenient treatment option? Please don’t hesitate to contact our practice and schedule a complimentary consultation! We’re open to patients from Crystal Lake and other surrounding areas.