OSA is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep due to a blockage in the airway. Obstructions occur when throat muscles, the tongue, tonsils, or the soft palate relax and cover the airway, preventing breathing. The obstruction results in a severe drop in blood oxygen levels throughout the night.
OSA is typically diagnosed using a sleep study. During a sleep study, a sleep physician monitors brain activity and body system functions while a patient rests overnight at a sleep lab. The specialist evaluates the data collected to diagnose sleep disorders and recommend treatment. If prescribed by the sleep doctor, a dentist trained in sleep medicine works with them to treat obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy. In some cases, a home sleep study may also be possible instead of reporting to a sleep lab.
Treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea may involve surgery, CPAP or BiPAP machines, or oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances provide the least invasive option and are often a good choice for treatment of mild to moderate OSA. A carefully calibrated appliance like a CPAP or BiPAP can comfortably help hold the jaw in a precise position throughout the night.
All treatment recommendations should be made in conjunction with your sleep physician. If appliance therapy is selected, it’s essential the right positioning is used to maintain an open airway.