Sleep Disorder Alternatives to CPAP

Have you recently learned you need to wear a CPAP? Or maybe you’ve known for a while that you should do something to treat your sleep disorder but you just can’t wear the CPAP mask. You may wonder, is it that important? And, if I can’t wear a CPAP, what should I do? 

More and more people are being diagnosed with sleep disorders. Physicians are realizing that patients coming to them with complaints of daytime tiredness, lack of energy, elevated blood pressure, mood issues, and problems regarding snoring, may actually be suffering from what’s become a common sleep disorder called Sleep Apnea. 

Following diagnosis, those treated for their Sleep Apnea, typically notice major improvements in their life. One such improvement is they can now sleep with a spouse or partner and not be kicked out of bed because of snoring. 

Today the primary treatment for Sleep Apnea and snoring is the CPAP mask. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Air Pressure. The continuous air pressure from the CPAP is meant to open up the airway to stop the blockages that are occurring during sleep. These blockages cause what is called an apnea. With the airway open, the patient can now breathe normally, get the optimum amount of oxygen during the night, and wake up refreshed. He or she can also feel good knowing they are im- proving their health and quality of life now and into the future. 

For the CPAP to work properly the airflow has to be continuous. If not continuous (for instance the mask leaks, or the individual is up and down during the night, or the mask is removed during sleep) the airways again become blocked and effectiveness is diminished. Unfortunately there is a very high rate of CPAP intolerance. Reports show 50% to 70% give up and end up with a CPAP in their closet. So, what can be done for these individuals? 

The number one alternative to the CPAP is Oral Appliance Therapy. This involves treatment with a device, much like a retainer or a guard, that you wear in your mouth to help open up the airway. The device is customized to fit your mouth and adjusted for effectiveness by a dentist. 

Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) relies on two principles to open the airway. One is called Mandibular Advancement. Mandibular means your lower jaw. Advancement is the act of moving it forward. Since the tongue is attached to the lower jaw, as you advance the lower jaw, your airway opens. This same principal is used in CPR; to open the airway you move the jaw down and forward before breath- ing in. The second principle to Oral Appliance Therapy is called Tongue Supression. By pushing the tongue slightly down one can also open the airway. 

How does one find the right dentist to treat this situation? The following are some guidelines that may help. 

First, find out if the dentist is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, and or the Academy of Dental Sleep Orders and Disciplines. 

Next, find out how many years of experience the dentist has in the field of Oral Appliance Therapy. Is he known to the medical professionals in the field of Sleep Medicine? Does he get referrals from our local Sleep Test Centers. This is important as Sleep Centers know which dentists get the best results. 

Third, how many types of oral appliances does the dentist work with? Is he trained to select an appliance unique to individual needs (including both princiles of mandibular advancement and tongue suppression) or does he go with the one-size-fits-all approach. 

Also, is the dentist well versed in reading sleep studies? Does he know what he is treating? A Sleep Study gives you the severity of the situation, and being able to interpret the study is key to success in treatment. 

Oftentimes you can go to the dentist’s website and find testimonials from patients and gain confidence of his or her ability to treat your situation. 

And finally, Oral Appliance Therapy is not a dental procedure, but a medical procedure. Consequently it is billed through medical insurance not dental. Be sure the dentist and staff are experiened in medical insurance; and a Medicare provider if need be. 

An important item to note is that treating your Sleep Apnea is paramount to your overall health and should not be taken lightly. OAT is a relatively simple solution (meaning no surgery and no pain) that can solve a myriad of medical issues, extend your lifespan, and improve your quality of life.