Sleep Apnea Treatments-CPAP Machines, Oral Appliances and More

So I have a sleep breathing disorder… now what?

There are several treatment options to help individuals who have snoring or sleep apnea. Described below are some of the treatment options, including CPAP machines and oral appliances.

What is a CPAP Machine?

Most cases of sleep apnea stem back to the reduced airway space we introduced in Chapter 2.  This means that there’s not enough room for air to travel down to your lungs. 

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It increases the air pressure in the throat which helps to prevent the airway from collapsing when you breathe in . It is perhaps most popularly known for helping relieve  snoring each night. 

The process starts with a tube that connects the machine to a mask that you put over your face while you sleep. A chin strap keeps the machine in place.

Most of the masks cover both nose and mouth, but some newer options include a mask that covers only the nose.  Even with recent advances in technology, research has shown that after two years, about 85% of people are no longer using the CPAP regularly.  

Why do they stop? CPAP users typically  complain of problems with dry mouth, of the machine being cumbersome, trouble with travel away from home, and difficulty cleaning the unit and the water lines.  The simple fact is that it’s just not an easy tool to have to sleep with every day of your life.

CPAP Machine

What is an Oral Sleep Appliance?

There are many versions of oral sleep appliances, but most share the same ultimate goal.   They hold the jaw in a different position, opening up the airway during sleep.

These appliances fit like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer.  They hold the lower jaw in a forward position, which helps maintain an open airway. Research shows that oral appliance therapy is sometimes a very effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. 

This may be the first option you investigate after finding out you have sleep disordered breathing.  And there are some advantages to oral sleep appliance therapy including being:

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to travel with
  • Quiet
  • Easy to take care of

It’s very easy to incorporate them into your life and many people are very happy with their appliance. The one concern you need to watch for during treatment with an oral sleep appliance is changes to the jaw joint over time. Any pain or soreness that doesn’t resolve after a few nights of use is reason to discuss the treatment with the doctor.  

An oral sleep appliance is not for everyone, and if you’ve had a history of jaw problems or pain, it is not recommended.

Oral Sleep Appliance

DNA Device for Children

We might think snoring is cute, but it’s always a sign of airway blockage.  If your child snores it means they are not getting enough air while sleeping.  This can lead to :

  • ADHD symptoms
  • Bed wetting
  • Problems at school
  • Allergies and immune issues 
  • Stunted growth
  • Behavior issues

 

There is a great treatment called MyoBrace that can intercept growth and help form your child’s airway during growth.  This can even help prevent the need for braces in later years as well. Better breathing, as it turns out, leads to better health and straighter teeth!

This device is worn at night and can be used for children as young as 2 years of age.

DNA Device for Adults

The reason appliances work so well in children is because they are still growing.  Once an adult has stopped growing, it is harder to change the airway – but it is possible.   

To change this path the structure, a special device called a DNA appliance is made.  Over the course of 12-18 months, you slowly expand the upper jaw by wearing the appliance.

This device is worn 16 hours a day.  You go through your day, come home, eat dinner and then wear through the evening and overnight. 

It directs growth forward and outward, because the goal is to make the top jaw wider.  This DNA device promotes growth by pushing the teeth out and forward. Then, the tongue on the bottom,  which is a very strong muscle, will then help the bottom jaw compensate for the changes in the top jaw.

This jaw expansion lifts the tissue that is blocking your airway up and allows you to breathe more easily for the rest of your life.

DNA Appliance

What About Myofunctional Therapy & Mouth Taping?

My son has been a mouth breather since he was little.  He found out he could tape his mouth shut at night and it would help his airway open up more. This taping forces him to breathe through his nose and retrains his muscles.  There is tape designed just for this purpose.  

There are also trained Myofunctional therapists that can help retrain your muscles to swallow and breathe correctly again.  These therapies should be used along with these devices to be able to really allow the airway to change.

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