Sleep dentists have made incredible advancements over the years in treating sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder characterized by a repeating cycle of falling asleep, muscles relaxing, airway collapsing, and gasping awake. One such treatment is combination therapy, a revolutionary treatment that not only treats the most extreme cases of sleep apnea but also does so in a more comfortable and tolerable fashion than other treatments.
Combination therapy combines two common treatments for sleep apnea: the mandibular advancement appliances and CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines. The frontline treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine, which entails patients wear a mask at night that covers the mouth and nose and provides a continuous stream of air in order to keep your airway open.
Mandibular advancement appliances, or oral appliances, push the lower jaw forward, holding the airway open. It fits much like a sleep guard would and has been successful in treating mild to severe sleep apnea.
For combination therapy, the oral appliance pushes the jaw forward and opens the airway, while nasal pillows, rather than a full-face mask, on the CPAP machine provide the steady stream of air that severe sleep apnea patients may still struggle to get while sleeping. By using an oral appliance in conjunction with the CPAP machine’s nasal pillows, patients receive the benefits of each treatment without the added discomfort a traditional CPAP machine mask can bring.
“Sleep apnea is a lifelong condition that gets worse as patients age, no matter how they are treated,” said Kathy Uzelac of Sleep Airway Solutions. “For people using CPAP with the full-face mask, this usually means the pressure on the CPAP will continue to be increased over their lifetime. The higher the pressure, the less comfortable CPAP becomes.”
“So, one major benefit of combination therapy is that rather than having a full-face CPAP mask which covers the mouth and nose, the patient would only have nasal pillows on their CPAP, which comfortably insert into the nostrils,” Uzelac said. “The pressure on the CPAP machine can be turned way down, making it far more comfortable and tolerable for patients.”
Due to the discomfort that using only CPAP machines can cause when high pressure is needed for severe sleep apnea, 55% of patients don’t regularly use their CPAP machines. The irregularity in nightly use of CPAP machines fails to treat a patient’s sleep apnea symptoms and leads to a negative effect on a patient’s blood pressure, headaches, chronic sleepiness, depression, and a host of other health issues. For sleep dentists like those at Sleep Airway Solutions in Valparaiso, offering this combination treatment to patients ensures they are receiving the treatment that targets their sleep apnea in a comfortable way.