When you are sleeping, your body will be in a fully relaxed position, during which your muscle reflexes will also be at rest. That’s how you get a good night’s rest. However, people who suffer from sleep apnoea experience a narrowed airway passage when their throat muscles responsible for widening the passage become relaxed.
The narrowed airway usually results in loud incessant snoring. If the snoring persists, it can progress to stage in which the air gets intermittently blocked by the closed airway passage, resulting in your failure to breathe normally.
Sleep apnoea occurs when the tissue and muscles around the windpipe collapses, resulting in an obstruction of the airway at the back of the mouth behind the tongue.
It’s the state in which breathing is completely obstructed for 10 seconds or more (known as an apnoea); or partially obstructed whereby the airflow is partially reduced for ten seconds or more (known as hypopneas).
By disrupting your breathing when you are sleeping, sleep apnoea also disrupts the important rest that your body needs for daily functions.
Repeated many times a night, the cycle of apnoea events can leave you restless and tired the next day. Left untreated, sleep apnoea can lead to depression, headaches and bad temper. Sleep apnoea sufferers can even be a liability to themselves or others if they drive or operate heavy machinery.
Research also links this sleeping disorder to serious health complications including high blood pressure, heart problems and stroke.
If you suspect that you have sleep apnoea, it is dangerous to simply brush it off as fatigue or lethargy. In fact, the condition can be significantly improve or cured if spotted early.
Do you know that dentists can treat sleep apnoea?
Some dentists have the training, knowledge and skills to help treat your sleep apnoea or snoring problems. Depending on your specific condition, dentists may prescribe several treatment options, predominantly in the form of Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT).
OAT usually involves the use of small plastic dental devices that are worn during sleep. Known as mandibular advancement devices (MAD) or mandibular advancement splints (MAS), these devices help to advance or thrust the lower jaw forward, so as to prevent the collapse of the soft tissues within the throat. They may also be used to either bring the jaw forward or lift the soft palate within the mouth.
As such, the appliance can hold the mandible (lower jaw) and connected tissue forward and clear of the airway.
The main attributes of the OAT devices are: extremely discreet, require no power to operate and highly portable.
This makes them an excellent choice for people who travel frequently, or who are sometimes unable to get access to mains power – which compares favourably with CPAP machines that require a powered source.
Made from soft silicone materials, mandibular advancement devices are custom made and designed for optimum fit and comfort. By taking a dental impression, the dentist is able to mould the oral splint to fit in your mouth – holding your jaw in the proper position so that you can breathe normally during your sleep.