Can Sleep Apnoea be treated by using a Mouthpiece

Sleep Scientists and Doctors in America say a BIG YES!

More than 18 million American adults have obstructive Sleep apnea (OSA), according to the National Sleep Foundation. This means that during sleep, the tongue and soft tissues of the mouth relax and fall back into the throat, partially obstructing the airway. People with OSA can actually stop breathing for as much as 10 to 30 seconds, and do this hundreds of times a night. The extra effort that it takes to breathe causes repeated, brief awakenings throughout the night. Although these events are usually unnoticed by those with OSA, their bedmates will realise that something is very wrong, as they lie awake listening to their partners’ very loud snoring.

It has been well documented in numerous studies in the US and the UK that people with OSA have fragmented sleep and that the disorder, if left untreated, can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, an impaired quality of life, and an increased risk of motor vehicle and occupational accidents. It can even cause hypertension, or high blood pressure. A statement from the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), explains, “Every time the airway shuts down, the body pumps adrenaline and this raises the blood pressure. Half of the people with sleep apnea have hypertension – sometimes at dangerous levels.”

Another panel of experts, writing in the journal Critical Reviews in Oral Biology & Medicine, analysed 16 different studies of treatments for OSA.

They noted that for persons with severe OSA, the most effective treatment is continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. This therapy works on a pneumatic principle: Wearing a mask during sleep, the patient breathes in moist, pressurized air, which forces the airway to remain open. Although CPAP helps a majority of users, figures show that 50 per cent of patients give up on the treatment due to the side effects. These can include nasal congestion, sneezing, dry throat and other problems, according to the panelists, who went on to say that for people with mild to moderate OSA, there is an effective alternative treatment in the form of an oral appliance that is worn during sleep.

This appliance goes by several names: the mandibular advancing device (MAD) or mandibular repositioning appliance (MRA). It is often referred to as a Splint. It looks very much like a sports mouth guard and it works by slightly adjusting the position of the lower jaw (mandible), the tongue and other soft structures in the mouth and throat, thereby keeping the airway open.

It was reported by the panel that in most patients, MAD therapy decreased snoring and daytime sleepiness, and it improved work performance and sleep quality of both patient and partner.

There are a number of versions of these oral appliances. To discover how well they work Sleep Apnea sufferers are advised to try a basic product initially; one such as the sleepPro Standard. Low-cost, efficient, and simple to fit they are very readily available and can be ordered online for delivery to the home.

If successful, as they often are for mild and medium sufferers, then it is possible to upgrade to a custom-fit version, available from the same UK company. Alternatively, at greater cost, the same type of product can be custom-fitted by a dental professional.

However it is important that people with severe OSA should talk to their doctors about CPAP as their first treatment.

By John Redfern