Those affected by sleep apnea often experience a diminished quality of living due to lack of restful, restorative sleep. The condition is characterized by frequent sessions of interrupted breathing, typically for 10 seconds or longer and multiple times throughout the night.

Having sleep apnea places the individual at significant risk of experiencing negative physical consequences in addition to interpersonal and professional difficulties. Once the sleep disorder is identified and properly diagnosed, appropriate sleep apnea treatment or alternative solutions can be employed.

What Are the Options for Sleep Apnea Treatment?

Sleep apnea treatment options are recommended based on the severity of the condition and the extent of its secondary effects. Patients suffering from the disorder may undergo one or more of the following diagnostic and sleep apnea treatment options:

  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) Machine: A method of delivering a constant stream of air through the mouth during sleep, CPAP therapy ensures an open airway, prevents soft tissue blockages and eliminates oxygen deprivation to bodily tissues.
  • Snoring Appliance: Oral appliance therapy involves wearing a special device between the teeth, keeping the lower jaw and other soft tissues pulled forward. A reduction in sleep apnea is accompanied by the elimination of snoring.
  • Mouth Guards: Constructed to fit comfortably over the upper or lower teeth, mouth guards reposition the lower jaw and tongue away from the back of the throat, reducing the risk of obstruction and therefore sleep apnea.
  • Watermark ARES™ Home Testing: Assisting in the diagnosis of sleep apnea, the Watermark ARES™ device allows for testing of the condition from the patient’s own home.
  • Lab Testing: Sleep studies conducted by specialists are often performed in special sleep labs designed to measure the degree of sleep apnea and the bodily response to oxygen deprivation.
  • Pharyngometer: A pharyngometer is a tool used to measure the diameter of the airway and airflow upon inhalation when testing for sleep apnea.
  • Rhinometer: Applied in diagnosing sleep apnea, a rhinometer allows specialists to use sound waves in assessing how air flows through nasal passages and whether any obstructions are present.

Other treatment considerations may include implementing lifestyle changes to reduce sleep apnea risk factors and treating conditions that may be contributing to the sleep disorder.

Alternative Solutions: Treating TMD Associated With Sleep Apnea

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) is a condition often associated with sleep apnea. In certain cases, treating such conditions may help to more effectively manage the sleep disorder and its impact on the patient. TMD treatment solutions may include:

  • Anti-Inflammatory and Sedative Medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications help relieve muscles inflamed by TMD, while sedatives reduce the anxiety and overall tension often leading to the joint condition.
  • Warm and Cold Compresses: Muscles that are painful or inflamed can often be relieved by the application of warm and cold compresses.
  • Exercises: A stretching and exercising regimen for jaw, neck and shoulder muscles can help reduce acute stiffness and tension and prevent future muscle pain and inflammation.
  • Occlusal/Nightguard Splint: Worn over the upper or lower teeth, nightguards (occlusal splints) prevent damage to tooth surfaces from clenching or grinding habits and help keep teeth in proper relation to the opposing arch.
  • Injectables: Cortisone and injectables like Botox® have yielded some success in reducing the joint and muscle inflammation associated with TMD.
  • Jaw Joint Replacement Surgery: In severe cases, joint replacement surgery may be required to restore function to a damaged or degenerated jaw joint.

TMD may precipitate the onset of sleep apnea, or develop as a result of the sleep disorder. In either case, receiving a diagnosis and treating both TMD and sleep apnea are important to preserving both oral and systemic health.

Seeking TMD and Sleep Apnea Treatment

Whether treatment protocols include oral appliance therapy, a CPAP machine, treating TMD or simply making lifestyle changes, adhering and committing to the recommendations of the specialist is vital to improving your quality of life. To learn more about diagnosing sleep apnea and TMD or receive additional information about treatment options, contact your dentist for a consultation today.

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