Dental appliances or devices can be helpful when it comes to some patients of sleep apnea but not others. In the past doctors were wary of prescribing this treatment option to their patients due to lack of sufficient testing and research to determine their effectiveness. Dental device research is making inroads as a group of researchers hailing from the University of New South Wales in Australia have tested the devices on subjects to determine their overall effectiveness. The results concluded from these studies were that two thirds of the individuals tested showed a vast improvement in symptoms and their sleep apnea episodes dropped from an average of twenty-five per night to four or five and even in some people, less.
Although continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is one of the most widespread forms of treatment for sleep apnea, many patients find the machines uncomfortable and unsettling. Many people use them for a short time and then give up using them or only use them for an hour or two a night without noticing an improvement in their symptoms. Still others find the claustrophobic aspect of the mask to be more than they can bear. For these reasons many sleep apnea patients choose to opt for another form of treatment and that is where the dental appliances come in.
Originally these dental devices were meant to decrease the incidence of snoring of which they did an excellent job however with time and improvement in their design they have come to be used as a type of treatment for those who suffer from mild to moderate forms of sleep apnea. Less rarely are they used by those who suffer from severe sleep apnea, as they tend to be less effective for this group of people.
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There are a variety of dental devices available for the patient to choose from. Two of the most popular include the splint and the mandibular advancement device (MAD). The splint keep the tongue in a particular position and by so doing, allows the air passage to remain open and clear. The mandibular advancement device (MAD) looks a lot like the sports mouth guards that athletes wear for protection. This apparatus forces the lower jaw in a backward direction and this makes it possible for there to be plenty of room for air to flow in and out.
More and more doctors are prescribing dental devices for their sleep apnea patients today than ever before as more is known about how they work to treat the sleep disorder. Most patients report positive results with the use of dental devices although more studies need to be done to determine if they have any significant health benefits for sufferers. MAD in particular has been found to have plenty of benefits. First of all for those who sleep lying on their backs and experience mild to moderate sleep apnea it has been found to decrease the incidence of apnea episodes considerably. Secondly, it may play a role in improving the flow of air into and out of the lungs, although this is less the case with those who suffer from severe sleep apnea. Thirdly, it seems to have a positive effect on getting a good night’s sleep. Finally in one particular study done, eighty-eight percent of the test subjects described their MAD as being extremely effective in decreasing apnea symptoms.