In order to manage the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring, certain devices can be used to help open up the blocked airways of the patient and facilitate breathing during sleep.

A continuous positive airway pressure device, for CPAP, is used to manage moderate to severe sleep apnea. This appliance delivers air pressure through a mask that is placed over the patient’s nose while she sleeps, with the air pressure greater than the surrounding air. This pressure is enough to keep the upper airways open and prevent breath holding spells and snoring during sleep. Although the CPAP appliance is a very reliable method of managing sleep apnea, some patients find it inconvenience and uncomfortable. Doctors usually recommend that the patient try and get used to using this appliance, usually with a humidifier and a different size mask, until they feel more comfortable with it.

In some cases when the CPAP machine continues to be too cumbersome for the patient, a BP AP or bi-level positive airway pressure device is also available for use. Unlike the CPAP that delivers a constant pressure to the upper airways, the BPAP builds a higher pressure when the patient inhales and lowers the pressure when the patient exhales. This mechanism is designed to strengthen week breathing patterns in patients with central sleep apnea. Some BPAP appliances can be set to automatically deliver a gush of breath into the patient once it detects that the patient has stopped breathing for a few seconds.

The most recent treatment of clients for sleep apnea is the expiratory positive airway pressure, or EPAP, which is a small single use valve that is placed over the nostrils just before the patient goes to sleep and is designed to allow air to move freely as the patient inhales, but regulates air as he exhales by passing it through the small holes in the valve. This mechanism increases the air pressure as the patient exhales to keep the airway open.

Another option for managing symptoms of sleep apnea is the use of oral appliances that are essentially mouth guards that are specifically designed to open the patient’s throat by bringing the jaw forward during sleep. This type of appliance is able to relieve snoring in mild obstructive sleep apnea.

Because of the various devices that are available for use, it is best if the patient consults with the dentist to find out which appliances work best for his particular condition. It may be necessary to try out more than one to find the right fit. Once the patient knows which one works best for him, is important to follow up with the dentist at least twice a year to ensure that the oral appliance still fits well, and also to reassess the symptoms of the condition.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring

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