Getting Your Z's The Dental Way: Dental Appliances For Sleep Apnea
Most people who have sleep apnea are prescribed a breathing machine to which a long hose is attached. The patients have to wear all manner of bizarre masks at night that are not comfortable, even though they are helpful. If you want something other than a sleep mask you constantly have to readjust every time you roll over at night, try the sleep apnea appliance prescribed by dentists. Read on to learn more:
At the Heart, er, Throat, of Sleep Apnea
The problem with sleep apnea is that as your body relaxes, all muscles relax, including those in your neck and throat. One of the very causes of sleep apnea is the completely relaxed muscles in this area. They relax into the esophagus and cut off your airway. You stop breathing for seconds to minutes at a time until your brain freaks out and wakes your body up to breathe.
Air machines force open your airway. Then they force air down your throat to your lungs so that you do not wake up. You continue to sleep while the machine works to breathe for you, kind of like a ventilator in the hospital. Skip that and try the dental device.
The Dental Appliance
A dental appliance for sleep apnea takes an entirely different approach. Another cause of sleep apnea is your lower jaw sliding backward while you sleep and blocking off your airway. This is similar to what happens when you are found unconscious and not breathing, and someone starts artificial resuscitation on you to get you to breathe again. The first thing that person does is lift your chin. Why? Because lifting your chin opens your airway so that rescue breaths can get through.
The dental appliance applies this very principle. It is similar to a mouth guard, except that it forces your chin forward at night. As long as you wear it all night while you sleep, your airway remains open and you can breathe quite well. It is ideal for patients who cannot use a sleep apnea machine for any number of reasons.
The only drawback is that patients with bruxism may not be able to use the dental device for sleep apnea. Patients who grind their teeth while they sleep would be at risk of breaking their front teeth because the device pulls the lower jaw ahead of the upper jaw. Grinding would force the upper teeth against the backs of the lower teeth and the device, and possibly crack or damage the teeth.