Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to good health. If you suffer from snoring or diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you know that a full eight hours of sleep doesn’t always mean you awake feeling alert and refreshed. Poor quality of sleep that results from constant gasping and waking during the night can lead to poor mental function, memory problems, an inability to concentrate, and unstable moods. It is also associated with a number of medical conditions, most notably cardiovascular disease—the number one killer of Americans.
For patients with diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), using a CPAP machine is not always the best solution. While continuous positive airway pressure machines are the most often prescribed treatment for OSA, they can be noisy, uncomfortable, and unwieldy. If you can get used to a CPAP, it’s a highly effective treatment. But many patients do not get used to a CPAP, and are hesitant to tell their doctors that they aren’t using them. The good news: in many cases an oral appliance from Dr. Len Tau can keep your airway open just as effectively, and give you the full restorative effects of a peaceful night’s sleep.
An oral appliance is a small, custom-made mouthpiece that you wear at night to slightly re-position the way your upper and lower jaw fit together. By bringing the lower jaw slightly forward, it encourages the airway to stay open after you have fallen asleep. If you have ever worn a retainer or night guard, it will feel similar. Since the appliance is customized to fit the dimensions of your mouth, it is far more comfortable than any one-size night guards or snore guards you may have tried in the past.
For many patients, an oral appliance is much easy to get used to than a CPAP, and significantly reduces the number of apnea events during the night. In the more severe cases of sleep apnea an oral appliance may not be enough, but it can help you reduce your CPAP settings significantly, allowing you a quieter environment and greater ease of falling asleep.
If you have OSA, you have likely already seen a sleep specialist and done a sleep study or home sleep study. Because of its effectiveness at treating OSA for every form of apnea, mild to severe, CPAP machines are the gold standard recommendation from most doctors. Many doctors are aware of oral appliances, but they always want patients to try to use a CPAP or surgery first.
However, there is overwhelming evidence that oral appliances are a viable alternative for the majority of mild-to-moderate OSA cases. They are so well accepted that many insurance plans (and Medicare) cover them if you have a positive OSA diagnosis. After viewing a copy of your sleep study, Dr. Tau will be able to assess whether an oral appliance is a good choice for you.
If you do not have a positive diagnosis of OSA, but are chronic snorer, an oral appliance can help you with that, as well. The same issue that causes OSA is also what causes snoring: airway obstruction. By keeping your airway more open at night, the oral appliances address the root cause of both these conditions.