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What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by involuntary interruptions in your breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by obstructions or blockages in the airway, such as the tongue rolling back in the throat or collapsed tissues in the airway. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause fatigue and irritability, and it can even contribute to serious health conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blocked airway. This can be a result of the tongue rolling back into the throat, or by collapsed tissue in the airway, as shown above.

Treating Sleep Apnea

There is no single correct way to treat sleep apnea. For some, simple lifestyle changes such as weight-loss can restore sleep patterns. But for many, the aid of some external device is often needed. CPAP machines are one of the most commonly used sleep apnea treatments. While many patients find their CPAP to be effective, these machines can be uncomfortable and even noisy.

At RM Advanced Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we want to help you sleep comfortably through the night again. We offer alternatives to bulky CPAP devices that gently adjust your mouth so that you can breathe naturally. These oral appliances work to naturally open up your airway so that your body receives sufficient air through the night.

Normal nighttime breathing occurs when you have an open and unobstructed airway. Sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked.

Do You Hate Your CPAP?

Do you or a loved one snore or experience daytime sleepiness?

If so, you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA for short. OSA is a medical condition that affects over 19 million Americans. If left untreated, sleep apnea can significantly increase your risk of heart failure, stroke, diabetes, weight gain and more.

Fortunately, our experienced dentist may be able to help treat your sleep apnea with a non-invasive treatment. For many who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the go-to therapy option. Some people feel comfortable using a CPAP machine, and their treatment is highly effective; unfortunately, however, not everyone can tolerate CPAP machines. In fact, almost 90 percent of patients are not in compliance with this kind of treatment.

While CPAP therapy is still the recommended treatment for sleep apnea patients, it is certainly not the only option. The good news is that recent research and technological advancements have led to new treatment alternatives. Here at RM Advanced Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we will work with your sleep physician to design the best treatment option for you. If you are not compliant with a CPAP machine, we may be able to help treat your sleep apnea disorder with a non-invasive therapy.

Many medical professionals (both dentists and physicians) recommend that an oral appliance be designed with custom impressions to prevent tooth movement and reduce TMJ issues. There are three core features to look for when acquiring a sleep apnea or anti-snoring device: custom impression, compliance with medical standards and adjustability.

Oral Appliance

Oral appliance therapy (OAT) is one of our non-invasive sleep apnea treatment options. While you are sleeping, the muscles in your throat, tongue and soft palate collapse and block the airway. The lack of air results in the familiar, irritating snoring sound.

OAT gently raises the lower jaw and moves it slightly forward to allow for continual breathing and an open airway throughout the night. A custom-made durable medical oral appliance is an excellent option for non-invasive therapy. It is small, comfortable and effective. This device is also covered by most medical insurances and Medicare.

This therapy option is typically recommended for patients who have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

What Are Oral Appliances?

Oral appliances are an alternative to the traditional CPAP mask and are used for sleep apnea treatment. Custom oral sleep apnea devices are worn in the mouth while you sleep to help prevent the tongue and soft tissues in the throat from collapsing. This enables an individual to rest soundly throughout the night without snoring or experiencing an obstructive airway (obstructive sleep apnea).

Appliances may be used alone to treat excessive snoring and mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea. They may also be prescribed in combination with other obstructive sleep apnea treatments.

What Do Oral Appliances Treat?

Oral appliance CPAP alternatives can be used to treat:

  • Severe snoring
  • Mild to moderate sleep apnea
  • Airway obstruction
  • Low oxygen levels

How Do Oral Appliances Work?

Here at RM Advanced Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we make durable oral appliances that are in compliance with medical standards and custom-made for each patient. An oral device helps control snoring and obstructive sleep apnea by repositioning the tongue and jaw and keeping the airway open while you sleep. This promotes higher oxygen intake and reduces snoring and obstructed airway during sleep.

Oral appliances are similar in appearance to mouth guards or retainers, and they are worn only while you sleep.

What Are the Benefits of Sleep Apnea Oral Appliances?

  • Non-invasive treatment
  • Comfortable and easy to wear
  • Suitable for patients who are CPAP-intolerant
  • Short adjustment period when you obtain a new device
  • Devices are small and easy to carry, which is ideal for travel
  • When used consistently, significantly improves health by increasing oxygen saturation at night and decreasing daytime sleepiness
  • Higher compliance rates than CPAP
  • Significantly improves snoring
  • Corrects mild to moderate sleep apnea

If you are suffering from sleep apnea and believe that you could benefit from a sleep apnea oral appliance, give us a call at 727-202-4459 and schedule an appointment.

Health Insurance Coverage for Sleep Studies

Medicare, as well as most other insurance companies, will provide payment for a medically-indicated sleep study. While sleep studies have traditionally been performed in a sleep lab during an overnight stay, Medicare and many other insurance companies now also pay for in-home sleep studies that are used to diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

It is important that you contact your insurance company to determine if they will cover an in-lab or in-home sleep study. It is also important that you know and understand any deducible or copay amounts for which you will be responsible to pay.

Health Insurance Coverage for Sleep Therapy

Medicare and most other insurance companies will pay for a CPAP device or CPAP alternatives, such as an oral appliance; however, specific coverage criteria may need to be met beforehand. Coverage criteria is documented by but is not limited to:

  • Qualifying sleep study
  • Diagnosing of OSA
  • Prescription from your treating physician or dentist, detailing your needed equipment and supplies
  • Physician or dentist chart notes

Your insurance company, as well as the supplier for your oral appliance, will be able to assist you in understanding what portion of your treatment is covered, what documentation is required, and any financial responsibility you may have, such as deductibles or copays.

How Do I Get Diagnosed With Sleep Apnea?

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, it is important to seek a diagnosis so that you can begin treatment and start enjoying the benefits of a healthier life. To get diagnosed with sleep apnea, follow the steps below:

  1. Read through our list of symptoms and determine which symptoms you are struggling with.
  2. Schedule an appointment to begin sleep testing

See the difference a custom-made sleep and snore device can make for you!

  • Smaller, more comfortable
  • Smoother, more comfortable surface against your soft tissues and gums
  • Up to 22 percent more strength
  • 30 percent less overall volume than traditional oral devices
  • 33 percent less mouth-opening required to insert device
  • Better airway protection
  • Less or no tooth movement, improving comfort and accuracy

Did You Know?

  • 1 in 5 Americans who suffer from sleep apnea have not been diagnosed.
  • 1 in 3 people over the age of 15 is at risk of developing sleep apnea.
  • It is estimated that 22 million Americans currently have sleep apnea.
  • People with sleep apnea are four times more likely to have a stroke and three times more likely to have heart disease if their sleep apnea is left untreated.
Sleep apnea oral devices are custom-made to fit your mouth and designed to keep your airway open while sleeping.

Effects of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can contribute to several major health conditions. While some people are unaware that they have sleep apnea, there are some common signs to look for. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor about a diagnosis and visit our dentist for possible treatment options.

Physical Effects

  • Enlarged uvula
  • Hyperplastic soft palate (enlargement of the area)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal polyps
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Enlarged tongue
  • Small lower jaw
  • Receding chin
  • Neck size larger than 17 inches
  • Obesity and extra weight

Common Symptoms

  • Snoring
  • Stopped airflow and normal breathing while sleeping
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Gasping for air at nighttime
  • Restless sleep
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Decreased ability to concentrate or keep attention
  • Decline in daily performance
  • Depression
  • Shortness of breath
  • GERD
  • Impotence
  • Waking multiple times during the night

Related Health Issues

Untreated sleep apnea can be a contributing factor to other serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Below is a list of how frequently some conditions develop as a result of obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Hypertension: 35%
  • Atrial Fibrillation: 49%
  • Need for Pacemakers: 59%
  • Diabetes: 72%
  • Congestive Heart Failure: 76%
  • Obesity: 77%
  • Drug-Resistant Hypertension: 83%
  • Nighttime Heart Attacks: 91%

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Roberto Macedo can provide you with a custom oral appliance to treat your symptoms and help give you the good night’s rest you need. To schedule your consultation with our experienced dentist or to learn more about sleep apnea treatment in St. Petersburg, Florida, please call us today at 727-202-4459.