Sleep Apnea and Treatment

Obstructive sleep apnea is an insidious health condition. This condition prevents a person from breathing properly during sleep. Induced by airway blockages, sleep apnea causes a person to cease breathing for short amounts of time. Breathing cessation is followed by slight wakefulness to resume healthy breathing.

When a person has sleep apnea, he or she ceases breathing hundreds of times in a given eight-hour rest period. The cycle of breathing cessation followed by wakefulness impedes a person from progressing through each stage of sleep. Instead, he or she suffers from severely interrupted sleep patterns.

In addition to causing sleep deprivation, untreated sleep apnea contributes to cardiovascular disease, mood disturbances, memory loss, and malaise.

Causes and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

A few issues can contribute to the development of sleep apnea. Improperly aligned jaws and developmental issues with soft tissue in the mouth can lead to airway obstruction during rest. Excessive weight also contributes to the airway obstruction seen in sleep apnea. Those who smoke and drink have increased risks for sleep apnea as well as those who take certain medications that have sedating effects.

Symptoms of sleep apnea can include:

  • Headaches, especially when waking
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Feeling tired after what seems like a full night’s sleep
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability and depression
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Excessive snoring

Sleep Apnea Oral Appliance | Mark Massaro DDS | Tulsa OK Dentist

Sleep studies are necessary in order to confirm a diagnosis of sleep apnea. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, patients can seek treatment.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Our dentist, Dr. Massaro, treats confirmed sleep apnea with elastic mandibular advancement (EMA) appliances. These custom appliances are made from soft plastics to very exact specifications so that they fit comfortably and perform effectively.

An EMA appliance for sleep apnea treatment fits over the teeth, similar to a retainer. This device positions the lower jaw (mandible) forward to widen the airway. By widening the airway, a person can enjoy relief from episodes of sleep apnea.

EMA appliances are portable and comfortable. They do not present the limitations and discomfort that CPAP machines do. Oral appliance therapy is a non-obstructive and effective solution for many who suffer from sleep apnea and excessive snoring.

If you have sleep apnea, call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Massaro.


If I snore, do I have sleep apnea?

If you snore, you could have sleep apnea. Chronic, obstructive snoring is a common symptom of this sleep disorder. There are other symptoms of this condition, however, that might help you determine whether to seek sleep apnea treatment. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include waking with dry mouth and headaches, along with persistent feelings of fatigue even after what seems like a full night of rest. Patients with sleep apnea tend to present symptoms like memory loss, irritability, impaired cognition, and motor function, and depression.

Sleep apnea is a pervasive health condition because its overt symptoms manifest when one is sleeping. In fact, sleep studies are necessary to confirm an accurate diagnosis. If you have common symptoms of sleep apnea, we recommend speaking with Dr. Massaro about sleep studies and sleep apnea treatment. Our dentist refers patients to sleep science centers for these studies and can assess your treatment options if a study reveals obstructive sleep apnea.

What causes sleep apnea?

A few underlying issues contribute to sleep apnea. First, bulky throat tissue or overdeveloped oral tissue can block airways during sleep when they relax at the back of the mouth. Sometimes malocclusions, where the jaws aren’t properly aligned, contribute to airway blockage during rest.

Excessive weight, drinking, and smoking contribute to sleep apnea, too. Lifestyle changes in conjunction with sleep apnea treatment can greatly improve airway health and quality of life. Some medications, particularly those with sedating effects like antihistamines and anti-anxiety medications, contribute to apnea episodes as well.

How do you confirm the effectiveness of the oral appliance?

The effectiveness of a sleep apnea treatment protocol can be confirmed with a sleep study. A patient with diagnosed sleep apnea will have a follow-up sleep study to determine whether he or she is responding to treatment. A follow-up sleep study will provide real-time metrics on a patient’s breathing and sleeping patterns to measure treatment effectiveness.

When treatment is effective, patients should notice a difference in their energy levels and overall well-being after a few nights of use, too.

How long will it take to adapt to the oral appliance? Will it hurt my teeth?

Wearing any kind of oral appliance will take some time to adapt to. The elastic mandibular advancement appliance is made from soft plastics to very precise specifications for maximum comfort.

When compared to CPAP machines, elastic mandibular advancement devices are very comfortable. These appliances allow patients to sleep in any position without obstruction from a CPAP’s mask and hoses. Since the appliance is worn inside the mouth, there are no external materials to scratch or irritate the face.

There’s an added benefit to wearing an elastic mandibular advancement device; it protects teeth against bruxism. This habit of clenching and grinding teeth can lead to worn dentition and TMJ disorder. Wearing an oral appliance will protect teeth from the forces of bruxism.