Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder characterised by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. These pauses can last for a few seconds to a few minutes and can occur multiple times throughout the night. As a result, individuals with sleep apnoea often wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed and may experience a range of other symptoms including loud snoring, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and morning headaches.
Untreated sleep apnoea can have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Therefore, it is important for individuals with sleep apnoea to seek treatment to improve their sleep and overall health.
One treatment option for sleep apnoea is the use of dental appliances. These devices, which are designed to be worn in the mouth during sleep, work by holding the lower jaw and tongue in a forward position to help keep the airway open. There are several different types of dental appliances available, each with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks.
One common type of dental appliance is the mandibular advancement device (MAS). MAS devices work by gently advancing the lower jaw and tongue forward, which helps to keep the airway open and prevents pauses in breathing. MAS devices are typically custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist based on a mold of the individual’s teeth and are generally well-tolerated by patients. With advanced dental technology MAS are what we use and there are many different designs that make them tolerable and effective for treating patients today.
Another type of dental appliance is the tongue retaining device (TRD). TRDs work by holding the tongue in a forward position using a suction cup or other mechanism, which helps to keep the airway open and prevent pauses in breathing. TRDs are generally less effective in some cases. They may also cause discomfort or difficulty speaking and may require more frequent cleaning and maintenance than MAS devices.
Other types of dental appliances for sleep apnoea include positional therapy devices, which work by encouraging the individual to sleep in a position that helps keep the airway open, and hybrid appliances, which combine the features of multiple types of dental appliances.
While dental appliances are an effective treatment option for sleep apnoe and are used as a first line therapy for mild – moderate cases, they may not be suitable for everyone or more severe, complex cases. Some individuals may not have appropriate medical situations, while others may not see improvement in their symptoms with dental appliance use alone. It is important to have an individual assessment to find the right design for your situation by a proper professional. In these cases, other treatment options may be more appropriate, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy or surgery.
Surgical options for sleep apnea include procedures that remove excess tissue from the airway, such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) or radiofrequency ablation (RFA), or procedures that reposition the jaw or tongue, such as maxillomandibular advancement (MMA) or hyoid suspension. These procedures can be effective and are usually carried out by an Ear Nose Throat Specialist or Maxillofacial Surgeon. As these are more invasive and carry a higher risk of complications compared to dental appliances and CPAP therapy, specialists will often suggest conservative treatment first.
In conclusion, dental appliances are a safe and effective treatment option for sleep apnoea that can help improve sleep and overall health. While they may cause some discomfort or difficulty speaking at first and take a few days to get use to but are generally the most preferable appliance for when it comes to comfort.