Sleep apnea is a common condition in the United States. It can occur when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow. This is known as obstructive sleep apnea. The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. More than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea, but it occurs in all age groups and both sexes. Childhood sleep apnea is gaining prevalence with some estimates showing 2-3% of the US population; however, those estimates could be as high as 10-20% in habitually snoring children.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. Another form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to properly control breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is far more common than central sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease and mood and memory problems.
Oral Sleep Appliances
Treatment for diagnosed sleep apnea in our office is an oral sleep appliance. A sleep appliance is used to open the airway by moving the lower jaw forward, thus moving the tongue away from the oropharynx. This allows improved airflow, increases the oxygen levels in the blood, and reestablishes the normal sleep pattern. The market for types of appliances has increased and can be confusing for patients, however, Dr. Bradley highly recommends the TAP III Elite sleep appliance, which he uses most often and calls it the Ferrari of oral appliance therapy.
Delivery of a sleep appliance takes two appointments. The first appointment involves full mouth impressions of your teeth, a bite registration to determine your bite relationship, fabrication of a jaw muscle deprogrammer, and fabrication of models. The second appointment is the delivery, adjustment, and instructions for use.