Thursday, February 25, 2010

Keying Into the Mechanics of Oral Appliances

Today’s issue of the Tuscaloosa News included an interesting article on oral appliance therapy (OAT), detailing how dentists treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The piece explains that the word “apnea” comes from the Greek word meaning “without breath.” People with OSA can stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds, sometimes for a minute or longer, hundreds of times a night. OSA occurs when the soft tissues in the back of the throat collapse, blocking the airway during sleep.

Many dentists learn how to treat this serious medical condition. Last week, this blog discussed how to find a dentist trained in OAT.

Dr. Bill Meriwether and Dr. Daniel Urban, both members of the AADSM, relayed how this therapy restores normal breathing.

“With the apnea appliance, the jaw is brought forward to open the airway,” Dr. Meriwether said.

The dental appliance is made from molds of a person’s mouth. Many appliances can be adjusted to eliminate or decrease side effects. For instance, some appliances use a small wrench to move the device into its proper position.

In 2005, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released guidelines, recommending oral appliances for mild to moderate OSA patients who cannot tolerate or comply with CPAP, the standard treatment therapy.

Dr. Urban explained that while CPAP works almost 100 percent of the time and is the “gold standard” of OSA treatment, some people can’t or won’t wear the mask.

Dr. Meriwether added that oral appliances are less intrusive than CPAP and a good alternative for people whose condition would otherwise go untreated.

Dr. Meriwether has slept with several of the dental appliances to learn what his patients experience.

“It involves some adjustment, some adaptation,” he said. “It is a little bit like putting on contact lenses. If they are fitted well, most people adapt to them pretty readily.”

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Disclaimer

The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.