Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the sleep disorders treated by a sleep dentist. This condition causes the patient to stop breathing periodically during the night due to physical inhibitions in the air passages. To diagnose the condition, the sleep dentist will evaluate the signs and symptoms and conduct tests and examinations. This article covers treatment options for OSA.
Treatment Options for OSA
The following are treatment options that a sleep dentist might recommend for OSA:
For mild types of obstructive sleep apnea, the following might help:
- Weight loss for overweight patients
- Regular exercises
- Moderate consumption of alcohol or no drinking hours before sleeping
- Smoking cessation
- Sleeping on the side and not the back
- Use of nasal decongestant or allergy drugs
- Non-usage of sedative drugs, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety meds
If these suggestions do not improve the patient’s sleep, the sleep dentist may suggest other therapies. Certain devices help open a blocked airway. In rare cases, surgery may be needed.
Therapies for OSA
The following are clinical treatments for OSA:
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea can benefit from using positive airway pressure. This device delivers air pressure via a piece that is placed over the nose and mouth during sleep. CPAP lowers the number of breathing cessations that occur during sleep to reduce the effects of sleep apnea and improve sleep quality. The air delivery is constant, and the pressure is higher than that of the surrounding air, which is enough to ensure the upper airways stay open. The air pressure also prevents snoring.
Although CPAP is the most common and most successful treatment option for obstructive sleep apnea, the mask is uncomfortable, bulky, or loud for some patients. However, there are newer designs that are smaller, less noisy and designed for the patient’s comfort.
Over time, many patients often find a way to adjust the mask to a more comfortable and secure fit. The options available include face masks, nasal pillows, and nasal masks. Patients may need to try different choices to find a suitable one. A humidifier may also make the CPAP device more tolerable.
CPAP may be delivered as a fixed or variable pressure. In fixed CPAP, the pressure is the same. For varied CPAP, the device automatically adjusts the pressure if it detects an increased airway resistance. Bilevel positive airway pressure is another type that delivers a fixed level of pressure when breathing in and a different level of pressure when exhaling.
If the patient experiences issues while using the device, they can contact their sleep dentist to see what can be done to improve comfort.
Although CPAP is usually effective, an oral mouthpiece may be a worthy alternative for some patients with mild or moderate OSA. These appliances help keep the throat open. Some mouthpieces push the lower jaw forward to keep the airway open, which can sometimes help reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Other devices change the position of the tongue.
Regardless of the treatment option that the sleep dentist suggests for obstructive sleep apnea, they will ensure that the appliances fit the patient properly to reduce their sleep apnea symptoms.
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