Using A Mouth Guard For Sleep Apnea

America’s expanding waistline may be responsible for another growing problem in our country – sleep apnea. Approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea and many of them are overweight or obese. In fact, the most common cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in adults is obesity.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep. People with this condition often have trouble staying in a deep sleep because their throats close, blocking their airways. As a result, they partially awaken to start breathing properly. They do not realize they’re waking up and may become very sleepy during the day.

Obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even death. People with sleep apnea are also at an increased risk of work and driving-related accidents, due to inadequate sleep at night.  It’s important that anyone with signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea — especially loud snoring, repeated nighttime awakenings and daytime sleepiness speak with a physician.

Fortunately, sleep apnea is treatable. Trying to lose weight is the best way to help people sleep better. Recent studies have proven that weight loss can significantly improve and potentially eliminate obstructive sleep apnea symptoms in obese individuals. If, however, weight loss attempts are not successful, a common and effective treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), where patients wear a mask connected to a machine that blows air.

According to WebMD, oral appliances may be an effective treatment option, such as:

  • Mandibular advancement device (MAD). The most widely used mouth device for sleep apnea, MADs look much like a mouth guard used in sports. The devices snap over the upper and lower dental arches and have metal hinges that make it possible for the lower jaw to be eased forward. Some, such as the Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP), allow you to control the degree of advancement.
  • Tongue retaining device. Used less commonly than MAD, this device is a splint that holds the tongue in place to keep the airway open.

These options are effective for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea, particularly those who sleep on their backs or stomachs, dental devices may improve sleep and reduce the frequency and loudness of snoring. Also, people are more likely to use their dental appliances regularly than CPAP.

These devices must be fitted by a Dentist or Orthodontist and worn in the mouth at night.

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and have not been helped by the CPAP, you can contact Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Dental Center to schedule a consultation with a Dentist to see if a mouth guard is a better option of treatment for you.  You can call, 718-206-6980 to schedule an appointment.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.