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CPAP Vs. Oral Appliance Therapy
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the airway is blocked, often due to the presence of excess tissue in the back of the throat (uvula and soft palate) and a large tongue. Enlarged tonsils can also cause a blockage. The goal of any treatment for sleep apnea is to alleviate obstructions and open up normal breathing patterns. Two leading treatments are continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) and oral appliance therapy (OAT).
CPAP Therapy is the most common form of treatment. It involves wearing a mask that is connected to a pump. As a patient sleeps, air is pumped into the nasal passages, providing a consistent flow of air that keeps the airways open. While it is considered a safe and effective treatment option, CPAP therapy has some considerable downsides:
Discomfort and irritation from the mask
Restricted movement during sleep
Noise disturbance from the apparatus
Generally, the gold standard for treating OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. However, CPAP doesn’t have the best long-term compliance rate. Oftentimes, patients will try CPAP for a month or two, find it too uncomfortable or inconvenient to wear and throw it in their closet never to be seen again. Unfortunately many patients discontinue CPAP therapy due to the inconvenience of the mask and may feel that the only other solution that might help is surgery. . By doing this, their sleep apnea is not getting treatment. Without treatment, sleep apnea can cause significant health risks and have a large impact on daily quality of life.
OAT is a relatively new treatment that is becoming popular lately with patients who are tired of CPAP. If your doctor has found that you have OSA, you will be offered treatment options. Another option is oral appliance therapy which resembles a mouth guard used by athletes.
What are the benefits of oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?
Oral appliance therapy:
Can improve symptoms of OSA, including daytime sleepiness, moodiness, concentration issues and reduce or eliminate snoring.
Offers another option for people who cannot tolerate CPAP
Is easier to take along when traveling
Works without electricity
Dr. Bhumija Gupta uses an approach which involves the use of a custom-fitted oral appliance. Comparable in feel to a mouth guard or retainer, oral appliances are designed to gently reposition the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula. By preventing the collapse of tissue in the back of the throat, oral appliances keep the airways clear and help regulate breathing during sleep.