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:
SomnoMed Flex Device
The SomnoMed Flex is a two-part custom-created sleep apnea appliance that fits over the teeth in much the same way as a sports mouth guard. The device works by advancing the lower jaw into the CPR position thereby moving the tongue forward off of the back of the throat to open the airway. The SomnoMed device is easy to wear, the patient can speak with it in place as well as move their jaw from side to side and open and close. The patient adjusts it at home until they reach the optimal position for an open airway!