Sleep Apnea: CPAP vs. Mouth Guards & Other Treatments
Posted: December 23, 2020
Sleep apnea is a serious disease that can increase your risk for conditions like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression. The gold standard for sleep apnea treatment is CPAP therapy, which increases pressure in your airways to keep them open while you sleep. This helps prevent apnea events, where you stop breathing or breathe shallowly for seconds or minutes, causing your blood oxygen levels to drop and blood pressure to rise. There are many products marketed as alternatives to CPAP therapy, however, they may not be as effective at helping control sleep apnea.
CPAP Therapy as a First Line Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy uses filtered, humidified air to help create pressure in your airways to prevent them from collapsing. CPAP can help with both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is where your airways relax and collapse as you sleep. In central sleep apnea cases, your brain stops sending signals to the muscles that control breathing while you sleep. CPAP therapy can help treat any severity of sleep apnea, from mild to severe cases. CPAP therapy offers a nearly 100% success performance rate for sleep apnea treatment.
CPAP therapy is generally the first-line treatment for sleep apnea because it’s an effective treatment for most patients and offers proven results. Wearing a CPAP device can help reduce the number of apnea events and also help keep your blood oxygen levels in normal ranges. Also, studies have shown that CPAP therapy helps reduce the risks of serious diseases linked to sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and memory problems. Wearing a CPAP device at night can also help reduce daytime fatigue.
Using a CPAP device at night can often provide immediate results, reducing symptoms like morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and loud snoring. Also, many people notice that their concentration and mood improve, likely due to the better night’s sleep they get with their device. In most cases, CPAP is the first option for sleep apnea treatment, and doctors only look at alternatives if you’re one of the rare cases who can’t tolerate CPAP therapy.
Advanced Sleep Apnea Treatment Monitoring
Part of success in any treatment plan is having a team on your side to help monitor and adjust your treatment. At our men’s health clinic, our specialized sleep team provides ongoing telemonitoring. This helps us fine-tune your treatment plan to help optimize your results.
Led by our Harvard-trained Head of Sleep Medicine, Dr. Pai, our sleep team receives real-time data from your CPAP device and can make adjustments remotely as needed. For example, if the pressure is too low or too high, we’re able to change this while your CPAP sits on your bedside table. This makes treatment simple and convenient for you.
In addition, if we notice any issues, like a mask leak or if you’re not following your treatment plan, we’ll reach out to see how we can help. Our professionals will work with you to help identify and correct any problems so you can reap the benefits of a great night’s sleep with your CPAP device. We’re dedicated to providing total solutions for your health.
What about Mouth Guards for Sleep Apnea?
You may have heard of mouth guards that are supposed to help with sleep apnea. You may have noticed them in an online ad or a poster at your dentist’s office. However, these devices may not be as effective as CPAP devices. Most doctors only recommend mouth guards if you are in the rare group that cannot tolerate CPAP therapy. In addition, mouth guards are only able to help with obstructive sleep apnea and are generally only recommended for mild to moderate cases.
A recent medical study, conducted in Sweden, set out to test the effectiveness of mouth guards for sleep apnea symptoms. One group used a sleep apnea mouth guard while others used a placebo mouthpiece. Both groups saw improvements in snoring, restless legs, and fatigue. One sleep medicine specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital noted that the results of the study may say more about the placebo effect, since even the group with the fake mouth guards reported improvements.
There are two main types of mouth guards for sleep apnea: mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and tongue retaining devices. MADs force the lower jaw forward in an effort to help keep your airways open. Tongue-retaining devices restricts the tongue and holds it in place to stop it from relaxing and blocking your breathing.
Some side effects of mouth guards for sleep apnea include:
- Dry mouth
- Jaw pain
- Altered bite
- Sore teeth and gums
- Damaged dental or orthodontic work
These devices are custom-fit by a dentist, and can be as expensive as a CPAP device. Unlike a CPAP, however, you should replace them every year or two, as the plastic can start to degrade and change shape. Therefore, you may be paying more in the long-term for a mouth guard.
EPAP Nose Stickers
EPAP stands for expiratory positive airway pressure. Nasal EPAP involves wearing small stickers on your nostrils that have one-way valves. These devices don’t provide constant pressure like the CPAP device. Instead, they create pressure when you exhale by restricting airflow while you breathe out.
There is currently only one prescription nasal EPAP device on the market, and many argue that this treatment modality needs further scientific study to show its effectiveness.
Also, there are many situations where you can’t use these sleep apnea nasal strips. For example, they may not work if you:
- Breathe through your mouth at night
- Have trouble breathing through your nose
- Are experiencing a nasal blockage like a cold or allergies
In addition, many people notice that this type of sleep apnea treatment can also quickly add up. Each night, you use a disposable strip stuck to your nostrils, similar to a bandage. Each pair costs an average of $2, which means you’re spending an average of $730 per year or more. What’s worse, many insurance plans don’t cover these strips, which means those costs are coming straight out of your pocket.
Sleep Apnea Surgery
As you may have guessed, usually surgery is the last option for sleep apnea treatment. In some severe cases, patients may need surgery for their sleep apnea. Luckily, these cases are rare.
This option generally requires multiple procedures, and often results in still needing to use a CPAP device afterwards. Surgery alone is unlikely to cure moderate to severe sleep apnea. In many cases, these surgeries simply help make CPAP therapy more comfortable. For example, removing your tonsils can help reduce the amount of pressure you need from your CPAP device to help reduce apnea events. Therefore, surgery generally isn’t simply a one-time procedure that cures you of sleep apnea.
There are several different types of sleep apnea surgeries. One of the most common is uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP. This involves removing tissue at the back of the roof of your mouth to help open up the airway. Another surgery is tongue radiofrequency, which involves cauterizing the tongue muscle.
Most doctors don’t recommend surgery unless you exhaust all other treatment options. Not only is surgery often expensive and invasive, it can come with several risks.
Sleep Apnea Solutions from Low T Center
Is fatigue keeping you from doing the things you love? Having a hard time focusing at work? Bothering your partner by loud snoring at night? Visit our team at the Low T Center. Our men’s health clinic is dedicated to helping you feel your best. We offer affordable, convenient sleep apnea diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing monitoring to help you get a great night’s sleep. We are one of the leading sleep apnea treatment providers in the U.S. Make an appointment today to discuss your symptoms and see if you qualify for a home sleep test, or order your disposable home sleep test online to have it delivered straight to your door.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.