What is A Dental Appliance For Sleep Apnea?

Updated October, 2020
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Dental appliances are easy-to-use treatments for sleep apnea. They're designed to reposition your jaw to keep your throat more open. This can alleviate the symptoms of mild obstructive sleep apnea. Make sure to speak with your doctor first to see if an oral appliance can help you or if you require a different treatment method.

Who is at risk for sleep apnea?

Certain demographics face an increased risk of developing sleep apnea. Men and people over 40 develop this condition more often than women and younger individuals. However, other risk factors include:

  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Obesity
  • Large neck circumference
  • Post-menopausal women
  • Hypothyroidism

Your lifestyle choices also play a role even if otherwise healthy. For example, drinking alcohol close to bedtime can increase your risk of sleep apnea. Alcohol is a depressant, so it relaxes the muscles around your airways. This makes it easier for them to become closed off, which results in the sleeping disorder.

The dentist: an unlikely sleep apnea hero

Anyone who suspects they have sleep apnea should seek medical advice from a doctor. However, your dentist can also serve an important role in your treatment.

Dentists are trained to treat issues in your mouth. Since sleep apnea relates to muscles and tissues in your throat and mouth, your dentist can diagnose you with the condition, too.

With a diagnosis, you can speak with your dentist about getting a custom oral appliance made. This way, it fits perfectly around your teeth and isn't uncomfortable to wear every night.

What is a dental device for sleep apnea?

Dental devices are common for sleep apnea sufferers. This is essentially a mouthguard you place over your teeth as you lie in bed.

This device moves your jaw forward. Through this, the throat opens up more easily. By opening the airways, a dental device can relieve symptoms of sleep apnea, such as snoring.

After you get your oral appliance, you still need to see your dentist once annually. This is to make sure the device still fits properly over your teeth. You may need to get a new one made if there are any substantial changes to your bite.

Does Medicare cover a dental appliance for sleep apnea?

Part B of the Medicare program covers oral appliances for sleep apnea. Your Medicare plan should cover 80 percent of the cost, meaning the remaining 20 percent is your responsibility in the form of a copayment.

Your doctor must prescribe the oral appliance for it to be covered. When in doubt, contact your insurance provider to see what and how much it covers.

Lifestyle based treatments

In addition to a dental device, you may be able to see an improvement in your condition by making simple lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Maintain a healthy weight - Obesity is an underlying cause of sleep apnea for many people. It's going to be a particular problem if you carry a lot of weight in your neck. The extra tissue and fat put pressure on the airways, making it harder to breathe. Try exercise and dieting to see how much you can lose on your own. Even a 10% reduction in weight has significant impact on sleep apnea symptoms.
  • Stop smoking - Smoking tobacco causes numerous problems to your lungs and heart. It makes it more difficult to breathe by causing inflammation in the airways. Quitting smoking immediately can have numerous profound impacts on your overall health.
  • Avoid alcohol - Alcohol is a depressant. That means it relaxes your nervous system. When you drink too much alcohol, especially in the hours before you go to bed, it relaxes the tissues in your throat too much, blocking the airways.

What happens if you ignore it?

As soon as you notice the signs of sleep apnea, you need to take steps to treat it. Sleep apnea causes you to wake up repeatedly throughout the night, so you don't sleep as well. This can have wide-ranging consequences to your overall health.

  • Increased chances of a heart attack - With sleep apnea, you can't breathe properly at night. This disrupts how much oxygen you take in. Over time, this makes it more difficult for the brain to control blood flow through your arteries. You have an increased risk of heart disease and having a heart attack if you do nothing.
  • High blood pressure - Waking up all those times puts an intense amount of stress on your body. Your hormone systems go out of control, and your blood pressure spikes.
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes - Being overweight increases your odds of developing diabetes on its own. But when you don't get enough sleep, your body is unable to use insulin adequately. The two combined can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.

Can you cure your sleep apnea with a new mattress?

The short answer is no; a new mattress can't cure your sleep apnea. The good news? It can help—a lot.

One of the most overlooked changes you can make toward improving your sleep apnea continues to be a new, hypoallergenic mattress (with an adjustable base to elevate your body, like a Saatva). A new mattress not only can help you breathe better, but it serves to create a more relaxed, conducive sleep environment.

Devices, surgery, better eating, and a healthier lifestyle all contribute toward improving your sleep apnea. But if you have the money and your mattress's lifespan is teetering on 7+ years, we recommend replacing it.

The #1 Best Mattress For Sleep Apnea

Saatva is our top pick for the #1 best mattress for Sleep Apnea in 2020! They're a luxury hypoallergenic mattress shipped directly to your door (with full-service white-glove delivery). They have over 50,000 reviews and continue to be one of the most reputable, established brands in the industry (founded in 2009). Check their price, here.

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