Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a highly prevalent medical condition where the tongue and soft palate collapse in the back of the throat during sleep, causing air flow to stop. When the oxygen level in the blood drops low enough, the patient awakens, usually with a gasp. This repeats frequently throughout the night causing the affected patient to get insufficient rest, thereby being excessively tired during the day. Additionally, the drops in oxygen level have substantial consequences to health. Research shows that OSA increases the risk for:

  • hypertension
  • coronary heart disease
  • enlargement of the heart and heart failure
  • arrhythmias
  • stroke
  • metabolic disturbances such as abnormal weight gain and poor blood sugar control/diabetes
  • work-related and driving-related accidents

Snoring takes place when the soft tissues in the upper airway collapse and vibrate during breathing while asleep. Snoring may or may not be associated with OSA.

OSA is a serious medical condition that must be properly diagnosed by a sleep physician, usually via a sleep test (in-lab or at-home). Treatment options include:

  • weight loss
  • CPAP (machine used at night using air pressure to keep airway open)
  • oral appliance therapy
  • surgery

Oral Appliance Therapy refers to a dentist-fabricated appliance that is worn in the mouth while sleeping. It treats snoring and sleep apnea. The appliance mechanically keeps the lower jaw in a more forward position, thus keeping tongue and soft tissues more forward in an attempt to keep an open, unobstructed airway.

The following screening tool called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale is commonly used to evaluate whether further investigation for OSA is indicated.  You may want to see how you score on this scale:

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Downtown Seattle Dentist - Sleep Apnea Treatment with Oral Appliances