Sleep Apnea Dental Appliance vs CPAP
Although everyone has probably heard the term, most probably just associate sleep apnea with those who snore really loud. While it’s true sleep apnea may cause loud snoring, it can present a whole host of health problems in those that suffer from it.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, there are more than 22 million people who suffer from the disease. Unfortunately, up to 80 percent of those people go undiagnosed. Maybe they feel they’ve always snored or just feel tired all the time from normal day-to-day activities.
There is some truth to that of course – every day seems to get just a little bit busier. But if they feel tired during the weekends, holidays, or vacations, there may be something else going on. There are three types of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), Central Sleep Apnea, and Complex Sleep Apnea.
In simplest terms, OSA is when the upper airway is closed by the tongue or soft palate in the back of the throat. Central sleep apnea is caused when the brain forgets to tell the body to breathe. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both Obstructive and Central apnea.
There are many treatment options for sleep apnea, including lifestyle changes or even training the body to sleep on the side or stomach. The most popular mechanical ways to keep the airway open are CPAP devices or dental devices. These are placed on or in the mouth to keep the airway open at night.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
Although no formal study has been conducted, it is believed that 70 percent of sleep apnea sufferers are either overweight or obese. In those cases, losing weight is a long-term goal to help with sleep apnea. Positional Therapy is training the body not to sleep on the back. There are even devices that can be worn to help with this therapy such as the Slumberbump that is available at our office.
In many cases, these treatments help with mild cases of sleep apnea. In more severe cases, treatments of obstructive sleep apnea need to be more direct because the airway will close no matter how the patient sleeps. That’s where CPAP therapy or a mandibular advancement device is needed.
But which is better? In all actuality, that’s not the best question to ask. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is the gold standard of sleep apnea treatments. It creates enough air pressure to keep the passageway open throughout the night.
In other cases, a simple dental device will suffice. So a better question is: Which is the most appropriate way to treat sleep apnea? There’s no doubt that CPAP pressure therapy is required in extreme cases. But what about mild or even moderate OSAs?
The only way to know for sure is to take part in sleep studies. The best sleep study is done overnight in a facility equipped to follow rapid eye movement, brain activity, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels, and other indicators of how restful sleep has been. These are referred to as polysomnogram (PSG) studies.
A more common test is a Home Sleep Test (HST) where a recording device is worn overnight at home to measure at least four indicators that can be combined to diagnose Sleep Apnea. These are becoming more common as they are much easier to administer and much less expensive than a PSG, while delivering the same basic result.
There are also daytime sleep studies that can be performed. One will determine how alert a patient is during the day or if daytime sleepiness should be a safety concern (Maintenance of Wakefulness Test). The Multiple Sleep Latency Test measures how well a CPAP or oral appliance is working.
These tests will reveal if a CPAP machine is truly needed to combat sleep apnea or if lifestyle changes and an oral device will suffice. Health care professionals aren’t particularly worried about the treatment their patients receive – just as long as it’s the correct treatment.
It’s not about what treatment is best, but about what treatment is most appropriate. At Dental Sleep Medicine of Vancouver, we work to get you the best, most uninterrupted sleep possible. If you are worried that you or a loved one may have sleep apnea, schedule an appointment to meet with our doctor.
We learned at a young age to sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite. But if sleep apnea prohibits you from getting a full night of rest, being at your best during the day is a near impossibility. Contact us today to see how we can help.