Sleep appliances or snore guards as some call them are a very important tool in the treatment of sleep apnea. When we sleep, we go through several stages of sleep. One stage is known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During REM sleep we are completely relaxed and we lose all muscle tone in our body. When this happens the tongue can fall back into the airway and block a person’s breathing. A sleep study is needed to see how much this effects the sleep, but often a person can stop breathing for more than 10 seconds. When the oxygen levels begin to fall, the brain is awakened and the person gasps for air. This can happen up to 100 times an hour. Although the person never fully awakens, they never get any meaningful sleep and are tired and groggy all day. this is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The trucking industry has identified this as a potential problem and many trucking companies require testing for their drivers.
Treatment for sleep apnea is mainly twofold. A CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine is one solution. This consists of an air pump with a hose and a mask. The patient must strap the mask to their face and wear it throughout the night. The air pressure pushes the tongue out of the way and forces air into the patient’s lungs. Many people find this appliance cumbersome.
Another alternative to the CPAP is an oral sleep appliance. This is fabricated by a dentist to fit over the upper and lower teeth. People with implant supported dentures can have this made too. The function of the appliance is to move the lower jaw forward during sleep so that when the patient enters REM sleep their tongue does not fall back and block the airway. Sometimes, both CPAP and an oral appliance are necessary to get the desired result.
Dr Oliver has had extensive training on the use of oral appliances for treatment of sleep apnea and can bill Medicare for this treatment.