Sleep Apnea: Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Sleep apnea is a condition that blocks the airway during sleep, forcing you to wake up several times in the middle of the night to begin breathing again. It’s often accompanied by loud snoring and can make it unpleasant for your partner, who’s unable to sleep due to your snores. Millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea and aren’t getting the quality of restorative sleep they could be.

You may be surprised to learn that dentists are able to treat sleep apnea. Dr. Kevin F. Postol has been treating patients with sleep apnea for over 15 years with a success rate of over 85%. It’s even possible to have your treatment covered by your medical insurance if you’re diagnosed by your primary care physician.

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

There are two ways you can be tested for sleep apnea. You can obtain a home sleep apnea test if you’d prefer to test yourself in the comfort of your own bed or to conduct a sleep study in a lab. During the study, you’re observed during a full night while equipment monitors your breathing patterns, when you wake up and if your oxygen levels drop while you’re sleeping.

There are three types of sleep apnea you might be diagnosed with:

  • Central sleep apnea: Patients suffering from central sleep apnea have open airways, but their lungs aren’t drawing air during sleep. The problem is the brain’s control over their lungs or diaphragm and not the position of the jaw or tongue.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: Patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea have lungs that function as they should, but their airways are blocked, depriving them of the oxygen they need. They may wake up for several moments, adjust the position of their jaw or tongue and be able to breathe again before falling back asleep.
  • Mixed sleep apnea: This form of sleep apnea has symptoms of the other two, which means the brain isn’t communicating with the lungs well and there’s an obstruction in the airway.

Traditional Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

A doctor may recommend a treatment plan based on the type and severity of your sleep apnea. In many cases, patients are prescribed a device called a CPAP machine. The machine keeps your airway open through the night by delivering enough air to your lungs to keep your airway open. Many patients are uncomfortable with devices covering their faces while they try to sleep and view CPAP machines as a hassle.

Sometimes, patients might need surgery. Surgical procedures may remove tissue in your mouth or airway, stimulate the nervous system, create a new path for air to travel through or insert implants into the patient’s soft palate. Surgical intervention should always be seen as a last resort.

An alternative to CPAP machines many patients consider is the use of oral appliances to reposition the jaw and keep the airway open through the night. An oral appliance is more comfortable, less invasive and easier to use than a CPAP machine and can be just as effective in many cases.

Types of Oral Appliances

Dr. Kevin F. Postol offers five types of oral appliances to treat sleep apnea. What’s most effective varies by patient, so Dr. Postol will help determine which type of appliance is most comfortable and efficient for you. All of the appliances we use to treat sleep apnea are custom made so they’ll fit your mouth correctly. Our most popular options are the following:

TAP ® 3 Appliance

This option treats obstructive sleep apnea and works regardless of how severe your condition may be. The appliance works by aligning the upper and lower jaw with a small hook and socket. You can adjust the adjustment using a key so that you can adapt gradually and avoid overstraining your jaw while it adjusts over time. Patients like this device due to how easy it is to adjust and that they’re able to manage adjustments on their own.

EMA Appliance

The EMA is custom fit to your mouth and designed to be worn over your teeth. It’s ideal if you have a small mouth because the plastic straps are thinner than the material used in other appliances. You can use five different strap lengths over time to adjust the position of your jaw during sleep as time goes on. It can’t be adjusted as well as alternative appliances can and the plastic isn’t as durable as the materials other appliances are made from.

Herbst Oral Appliance

The Herbst OA is made of acrylic and supported by a metal frame. It can be adjusted using pistons and tubes on the side of the device. Because it allows you to move your jaw more freely, Dr. Postol recommends this option to patients who grind their teeth at night. While you’re still able to open your mouth partially, the rubber bands in the device prevent your jaw from falling completely open. Patients report feeling more comfortable when using this device.

How to Pay for an Oral Appliance with Insurance

Sleep apnea is considered a medical condition, so if you’ve been diagnosed and referred by a physician, it’s possible to have your health insurance billed for your oral appliance instead of using dental insurance or paying out of pocket. Dr. Postol is a part of the Cigna and United Healthcare networks and works with Medicare too. Our team can help you file a claim to see if your insurance will cover the cost of your oral appliance.

Learn More About Oral Devices

Dr. Kevin F. Postol has been treating sleep apnea for over 15 years and his patients see a success rate of over 85% in improved quality of sleep and reduced symptoms. If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, he can help you get a better night’s sleep with the right oral appliance. Contact us today to arrange an appointment so that we can review your treatment options and decide what’s right for you.

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