More than 18 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and in many cases go untreated for the condition. The awareness of OSA as a significant, potentially life-threatening, medical problem is growing for a number of reasons: the percentage of the population at risk of OSA increases as the average US adult, and child, population increases in weight and clinical studies are published more and more frequently that not only identify the link between general good health and sleep but also links the presence of OSA with Cardiovascular issues such as Hypertension, Stroke and Arrhythmias, Type II Diabetics, Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, higher risks of mortality in pregnant women with OSA, Ophthalmic conditions and more are found as awareness increases.
While OSA is a significant medical problem, there is a very viable and recognized dental therapy solution – Mandibular Advancement Devices. Since OSA is caused by the soft tissue obstruction of the airway, primarily in the oro-pharyngeal portion of the upper airway, the advancement of the mandible has been shown to reduce and often eradicate the obstruction that causes the absence of breath (Apnea) or significant reduction in airflow (Hypopnea), which results in blood oxygen desaturation.
For many years dentists have been prescribing and making intra-oral appliances to treat a variety of conditions including the correction of skeletal discrepancies, the relief of muscular pain or for the protection of the dentition. There is growing awareness that some of the conditions that dentists find to be common in their practice, such as bruxism, are linked to OSA and thus one should be aware of how oral appliance therapy might affect the presence or severity of OSA.