How a Custom Oral Appliance Can Treat Your Sleep Apnea

Jul 12, 2023

How a Custom Oral Appliance Can Treat Your Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea robs your body of the restorative powers of a complete sleep cycle. You could stop breathing dozens of times nightly, waking enough to start again, but at the cost of restfulness. A simple oral appliance can help.

Have you had days when you’ve slept eight hours or more yet you wake as tired as you went to bed? Virtually everyone has the occasional day like that. When it becomes a common pattern, though, it might be a sign you have sleep apnea.

While you’re sleeping, it’s possible for your body to stop breathing in the middle of your sleep cycle. Your brain wakes you enough to start breathing again, but you may not be aware of these incidents, which can happen many times in a single night. 

One type of the condition, called obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when tissue at the back of your mouth collapses in the relaxation of sleep. As the airways through your throat narrow, tissue starts to vibrate, causing the characteristic snoring that most sleep apnea patients exhibit. 

The answer to your sleep apnea problem may be waiting for you at the dentist’s office. The team at Los Altos Family Smiles can fit you with a custom oral appliance to improve nighttime breathing. We’re sleep apnea specialists, ready to work with your doctor or sleep clinic to help you find restful sleep.

What is sleep apnea? 

There are two distinct types of sleep apnea, as well as a third type which is a combination of the first two. Central sleep apnea stops breathing through a breakdown in signals from the brain. While you’ll still wake enough to start breathing again, it’s a neurological condition rather than a physical problem. Oral appliances won’t help this form of sleep apnea. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common. It happens when those throat constrictions block the natural flow of air as you sleep. One contributor to obstructive sleep apnea is the way your lower jaw drops and slips backward as you sleep on your back. The tissue of your tongue falls back, too, and when combined with the collapse of the soft palate at the roof of your mouth, there’s a significant reduction in the amount of room available for breathing. 

How a custom oral appliance can treat your sleep apnea

If you have mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, the simplest treatment may be a custom-fitted dental appliance that resembles a sports mouth guard. Technically known as an oral mandibular advancement device, this appliance slips over both the upper and lower arches of teeth. 

The sleep guard maintains the position of your lower jaw. Take a moment to move your bottom jaw, jutting it forward and pulling it back, and you’ll see how much sliding mobility your jaw has, much more than a simple hinging motion. 

When you’re awake, your teeth are roughly aligned, upper teeth slightly forward of the lowers at the front of your mouth. Your sleep guard maintains that alignment through the night. Your lower jaw won’t slide backward, thereby providing relief for the constricted airways at the top of the throat. 

An oral appliance may not be the right solution for those with more serious cases of sleep apnea. Your sleep specialist will let you know if you’re a candidate for a sleep guard oral appliance, and Los Altos Family Smiles can take it from there. Call or click to schedule your consultation with us today.