Sleep Apnea Appliances

Sleep apnea is a serious, sometimes fatal medical disorder that affects around 10% of American men over the age of 40, and 6% of American women of the same age. Sleep apnea sufferers completely stop breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times in a single night. Normal breathing ceases because the airway becomes obstructed, causing a serious reduction of airflow to the lungs.

There are a number of dental devices that can be used to alleviate this condition. The goal of most of these devices is to separate the jaws and push them forward slightly. This slight repositioning opens up the airway, and allows oxygen to flow freely again. Wearers of sleep apnea dental devices report that they stop loud snoring, feel more rested in the daytime, and are much more comfortable going to sleep. Sleep apnea appliances work best on patients who are not significantly overweight. They offer a viable alternative to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).

Sleep apnea appliances fall into two categories: fixed and adjustable. Here are brief descriptions of some commonly used sleep apnea dental appliances:

TAP® 3 (Thornton Adjustable Positioner)

The TAP® 3 is the smallest, most comfortable member of the TAP family. It is a two-part custom-created sleep apnea appliance that fits over the teeth in much the same way as a sports mouthguard. The TAP® 3 projects the jaw forward to prevent the tongue and soft tissues from impeding the airway. The lower jaw positioner is adjustable, which means that it can be altered to suit the comfort level of the wearer. The TAP® 3 appliance can accommodate the three main types of malocclusion and allows the lips to fully close.

OASYS Appliance

The OASYS appliance is designed to move the base of the tongue toward the front of the mouth by gently repositioning the jawbone (mandible). This shift opens the oropharynx and strengthens the upper airway. An extension of the upper shield projects toward the nose, creating a larger nasal opening and less resistance to normal airflow. This adjustable appliance is comfortable to wear and extremely patient friendly.

KlearwayTM Appliance

The KlearwayTM Appliance is generally used to alleviate obstructive sleep disorder and eliminate snoring. The patient or dentist can project the jaw forwards in increments of .25mm at a time. This ensures maximum comfort for the sleeper. The KlearwayTM appliance is made from VariflexTM heat softening acrylic, which makes it easier to insert. Running warm water over the appliance makes it pliable, but once placed in the desired position, the acrylic hardens again.

Herbst Telescopic Appliance

The Herbst appliance is held in the mouth by clasps and friction grips. It is made of acrylic, and contains adjustable metal wiring. The advantage of this appliance is that the wearer is able to move vertically and laterally without dislodging the appliance. The Herbst appliance is usually used in mild and moderate cases of sleep apnea, and can also alleviate loud snoring effectively.

If you have questions or concerns about sleep apnea appliances, please ask your dentist.

Kids Who Snore May Have Poorer Grades in School

By Larry Hand

September 08, 2015

(Reuters Health) - Snoring and other breathing problems during sleep can put kids at risk for poorer performance in school, a new study confirms.

Parents, teachers, and health care professionals need to be aware of the potential effects of sleep-disordered breathing and be able to recognize the symptoms, Barbara Galland, who led the study, said in an email.

Galland, from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, and her colleagues analyzed data pooled from 16 studies done in 12 countries, each including an average of about 550 children ages 5 to 17.

The studies looked at symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, such as habitual snoring and sleep apnea, as well as students' grades as reported by their school or their parents.

The combined academic scores overall of students with breathing problems during sleep were roughly 12% lower than scores of students without sleep-disordered breathing, the researchers reported online September 7 in the journal Pediatrics.

In particular, language arts scores were 12.3% lower, math scores were 13.1% lower, and science scores were 11.6% lower for the affected kids.

According to study published in 2009 in the journal Sleep, roughly one in every 100 elementary school children in the U.S. has sleep-disordered breathing.

"Although many studies find that the average achievement of children with sleep-disordered breathing remains in the range of typical children, children with sleep-disordered breathing may be more at risk for performing below this level," Galland said.

"That is, some children with sleep-disordered breathing may be performing less well on the tests. What we do not know is which children are more likely to do less well," she added.

The studies represented academic performance at one point in time, and "negative effects over time cannot be ruled out," the researchers wrote.

When sleep-disordered breathing is related to children's tonsils and adenoids, removing them might be helpful, the researchers said.

"For other children, jaw alignment may contribute and dental treatment is being developed to address this," Galland said. "Other health factors such as obesity can also contribute to sleep-disordered breathing, another reason for developing effective approaches to address this complex health issue."

More research is needed, she added, to understand which children are most at risk for academic difficulty associated with sleep disordered breathing and to figure out how they can be helped.

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