Sleep Apnoea

What is sleep apnoea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a breathing disorder which occurs during sleep and leads to the narrowing or total closure of the upper airway. During sleep, the body’s muscles relax. This causes the soft tissue at the back of the throat to sag and lessen or completely obstruct airflow.

OSA sufferers typically fall asleep and snore until the airway narrows or close. The lack of oxygen causes them to gasp and they become semi-aroused from sleep in order to reopen the airway. With airflow secured, they return to sleep. This alternation between sleep and semi-arousal continues throughout the sleeping period. OSA sufferers may experience hundreds of these apnoea episodes per night but they are unlikely to remember them. It is often the partners of OSA sufferers that become first notice the symptoms of OSA, which include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Fragmented sleep, causing morning tiredness, daytime drowsiness and poor cognitive function
obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Mood disturbances
  • Social withdrawal
  • Decreased libido

If undiagnosed and untreated, OSA may be a contributing factor in systemic and pulmonary hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, increased motor vehicle accidents, and mortality.

How can dentistry assist with sleep apnoea?

Dental intervention can be a part of the treatment plan for people with OSA. One of the main forms of dental treatment is the provision of a customised dental appliance known as a Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS).

The Mandibular Advancement Splint is a small device, similar to an orthodontic retainer or a sports mouthguard, that is placed on the top of the teeth during sleep. It gently moves the lower jaw forward, bringing the tongue with it, thereby preventing the soft tissue at the back of the throat and the base of the tongue from collapsing back into the airway and obstructing airflow.

What are the benefits of Mandibular Advancement Splints?

Mandibular Advancement Splints offer a number of important benefits to people with OSA. They are:

  • Safe to use whilst sleeping
  • Highly effective in eliminating snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Custom fitted for optimal comfort
  • Easily adjusted over time, lessening the need for replacement
  • Non-invasive and pain-free
  • Small and discreet

Considerations

Mandibular Advancement Splints are most commonly recommended for people with mild to moderate OSA. Your dentist, often in consultation with a sleep physician, will confirm your suitability for a Mandibular Advancement Splint.

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