More than 22 million adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a significant increase over just a few decades ago. Thankfully, two innovative treatment approaches have recently become available, giving patients at Smile On Dental & Sleep Apnea Center new options to explore for controlling their OSA.
Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP)
The centerpiece of the EPAP system are adhesive valves placed over the nose before falling asleep. When the user inhales during sleep, these disposable valves assist in maintaining in unobstructed airway. When the user exhales, the valves direct the airflow into small channels – this creates the necessary pressure to keep the airway open. As our OSA patients already know, open airways are a big key to minimizing the chances of interrupted sleep and obstructed breathing. The initial research into EPAP is very promising, and we’ll keep our readers up to date as the technology progresses.
Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation (HNS)
With HNS, we have an innovation that takes a markedly different approach then the OSA solutions we’re used to seeing. HNS involves a small device that is surgically implanted into a person’s chest. The surgery is just a short out-patient procedure, and with the device in place the user benefits from the device’s ability to not only monitor breathing, but also stimulate a specific nerve in the tongue/throat region in order to maintain an open upper airway. Also, the user has the ability to turn the device on/off. Approved by the FDA in 2014, HNS has posted strong compliance numbers, with very few side effects. Most importantly, initial research shows that the approach is effective at reducing sleep apnea symptoms.
These two promising options for sleep apnea treatment join several existing methods, some of which are summarized here:
Positive Airway Pressure Therapy (PAP)
Today this is still the most commonly-used treatment for moderate/severe sleep apnea. A PAP system consists of a nasal or full-face mask that the patient wears during sleep, and which pumps pressurized air into the patient’s upper airway. This keeps the airway from collapsing during sleep, thus negating one of the biggest contributors to sleep apnea. Several variations of PAP therapy are available, depending on the severity of the patient’s OSA.
Similar in appearance to a mouth guard, an oral appliance is worn during sleep for the purpose of keeping the patient’s tongue and lower jaw in a forward position. This increases the upper airway’s size and thereby facilitates easier breathing. Trained physicians such as our local dentist take care of the fitting and ordering process. These appliances have demonstrated effectiveness in combating practically every level of OSA, with specific success in the mild-to-moderate range.
For some OSA sufferers, a lifestyle adjustment is all it takes to start sleeping better. Losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake are all positive changes, as is a change in sleeping position – particularly, from the back to the side.
Get the Good Night’s Sleep You Need
Whether your OSA symptoms are mild or severe, our sleep apnea dentist serving Chicago and Deerfield can help. We’ll discuss your history, investigate the available solutions, and pick the approach that helps deliver the good night’s sleep you need.