One of the most basic problems of sleep apnea is that it deprives the body of oxygen; an obstructed airway obviously can’t take in very much air. It follows that one of the most logical solutions to this problem is to just add more oxygen!
The CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine works using this basic idea, and is one of the most common treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. But while common – and effective – CPAP machines have some annoying side effects that make them a poor fit for some people. Today we’ll discuss CPAP machines and potential alternatives!
How Do CPAP Machines Work?
The mechanism of a CPAP machine is very simple. To prevent the airway from collapsing, the machine feeds air to the patient at a pressure above normal levels. It’s basically a gentle air compressor hooked up to a mask.
The mask is another important part of the CPAP machine’s function. Multiple types are available, from simple nasal prongs to full face masks that cover both the mouth and nose. Different masks are used depending on the patient’s specific needs.
So speaking of masks, that’s one very obvious downside of a CPAP machine: comfort. Sleeping with something over your face feels inherently unnatural and takes getting used to; this is one of the reasons that 50% of patients discontinue CPAP use within one year. When you consider that many sleep apnea patients also suffer from anxiety or depression, the mask issue only becomes more troublesome.
CPAP machines also inherently make noise. This can disrupt sleep for sensitive people and any partners that share a bed with them. Other issues include mask air leakage, nasal congestion, and bloating due to excessive swallowing of air.
Oral Appliances: A Potential Alternative
The good news is that for certain types of sleep apnea, an oral appliance an excellent alternative! An oral appliance is a custom-fitted device you wear in your mouth that repositions your jaw. When configured correctly, these devices help keep your airway open.
Oral appliances do not work for everyone, but their mechanical simplicity and unobtrusive nature can be a desirable alternative to a CPAP machine. Klooster Family Dentistry is proud to offer oral sleep appliances to our patients! If you have sleep apnea and think you could benefit from an oral appliance, contact us today and schedule an appointment!