Treating Sleep Apnea:
What is CPAP & Why Do People Seek Alternatives?
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common solution used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Here’s how it works. The patient wears a mask that covers their mouth and nose while they sleep. And the mask is connected to a CPAP machine by a hose that delivers pressurized air to the mask and opens your airway.
While CPAP is an effective treatment option for some patients, it can be hard to wear the mask throughout the night. Many complain that CPAP is uncomfortable and hard to get used to. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 83 percent of CPAP users use their machine for four hours or less per night.
No matter how effective a treatment is, if it’s not comfortable to wear, then it can be hard to use on a regular basis. If CPAP is so difficult to use, what are the alternatives?
Oral Appliances & Their Benefits
You may have heard oral appliances referred to as ‘snore guards’ or ‘mouthpieces’. While they go by many different names, they generally fall into a couple different categories.
Tongue Retaining Devices are one of the most simple types of oral appliances available. They work by holding your tongue in place during sleep, preventing it from falling to the back of your throat and obstructing your airway.
Mandibular Advancement Devices are one of the most common types of oral appliances. They function by adjusting your lower jaw forward while you sleep. This keeps your airway open so you can breathe with ease.
Some patients choose to use both CPAP as well as an oral appliance to combat their sleep apnea. For example, at home, they may opt for their CPAP machine and while traveling they may use their oral appliance for on-the-go convenience.
Our oral appliances are custom-fitted to the unique shape of your teeth and jaw. With hundreds of options available, we are confident we can find the exact mouthpiece that will fit your lifestyle and needs. For instance, we may recommend a particular oral appliance for patients who grind their teeth, or another for patients with nasal complications.
Oral appliances are ideal for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea and are also a great option for those with a chronic snoring issue. It’s much easier to adapt to wearing an oral appliance every night than a CPAP mask, making it the perfect solution for many of our patients.
Whether you have sleep apnea or just need help getting a snoring issue under control, Dr. Plotka has the oral appliance to restore your sleep.
Other Alternatives to CPAP
In addition to oral appliances, there are several other ways you can reduce the impact sleep apnea has on your body. If you smoke regularly, reducing how much you smoke can make a big impact on your sleep apnea symptoms. Additionally, weight loss can help minimize the effects of your sleep disorder if you suffer from excess weight or obesity.
Another lifestyle change you can make is reducing the consumption of alcohol and certain medications you take, such as sleeping pills. These can cause your throat muscles to relax more than normal, leading to an obstructed airway while you sleep.
Depending on the severity and type of sleep apnea, training yourself to sleep on your side can be very helpful for many patients. During your consultation, ask us about throat exercises you can perform to help reduce snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea.
There are also a number of surgical options such as nasal surgery and maxillomandibular advancement surgery to help alleviate symptoms. Other patients may also be interested in a laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty. However, surgical solutions tend to be more expensive and are less tested than other solutions such as CPAP therapy and oral appliances.