The key to successfully resolving sleep-disordered breathing is commitment. In other words, no treatment works unless it is used. Whether it’s a CPAP machine—those bedside units that deliver air through a hose and mask—or an intraoral appliance that is worn inside the mouth, a treatment only alleviates symptoms and resolves health issues if it is used as prescribed.
The unfortunate issue with CPAPs is that less than half the people who need one (30 to 40 percent) wear it as prescribed—they are compliant. That means some 60 to 70 percent of prescribed wearers are noncompliant.
While the CPAP is a good remedy for helping a sleep apnea sufferer breathe at night, an intraoral appliance actually opens the upper airway, The CPAP helps to open the airway by forcing air through it, but it ultimately does not change the anatomy of the airway—the airway still closes when the sleep apnea sufferer relaxes during sleep without their CPAP machine.
On the other hand, there tends to be greater compliance with intraoral appliances—typically around 90 percent. An intraoral appliance opens the restricted airway while in use. Plus, an intraoral appliance can be worn while driving, watching television, during exercise or just puttering around the house. That’s not possible with a CPAP machine.
The intraoral appliance created by oral physicians is different than the mouth guards sold in sporting goods stores, online, or on television. Those devices may resolve the snoring, but that’s only silencing a symptom, not resolving the airway obstruction that is ultimately the root of the problem. And in silencing the snore, they’re turning off the alarm system that sometimes alerts a bed partner when the sleep apnea sufferer has stopped breathing, just as disconnecting the warning light on your dashboard.
Another very successful solution that is ideal when compliance is an issue is NightLase, a noninvasive, non-traumatic laser therapy treatment of the soft palate, uvula, and tongue at the back of the throat. NightLase also maintains the airway during the day, when night treatments are not being worn. This is a very new and exciting therapy that very few dentists are trained in.
Again, no treatment works if it is left on the nightstand; and of course, the best treatments are those guided by a professional. So don’t fall for those TV or radio ads as well as online marketing for the over the counter oral appliances.
Because whole-body health is a journey, one in which care focuses on a holistic and biological approach.
At the Julian Center, we provide comprehensive instructions to support your homecare skills. But it’s more of a partnership—we don’t just treat you, provide you with handouts, and send you on your way. We support your efforts to be compliant because we want your journey to culminate in a harmonious balance of the mind, body, and spirit.
Still, it is ultimately your responsibility to protect your long-term investment by performing proper daily oral hygiene, following prescribed exercises, optimizing your nutrition, and developing good sleep hygiene. In short, for many people, that means changing your lifestyle. But these sometimes easy lifestyle changes can make a remarkable change in your health and vitality.
The bottom line is that resolving sleep-disordered breathing issues is possible for those patients who are committed to getting results—and that means 24/7.