The Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Night Guards

Table of Contents

Sleep apnea, also identified as obstructive sleep apnea or OSA, manifests as a sleep disorder affecting approximately 25% of men and 10% of women. OSA occurs when a person’s airway either partially or completely collapses during sleep, leading to gasping, choking, snoring, and disruptions in blood oxygen levels.

For those seeking sleep apnea treatment, you can explore different options. Mouth guards, designed for teeth grinding or snoring, can also be a good sleep apnea oral tool. This works by repositioning the jaw or tongue to keep the airway open during sleep.

This guide explores the connection between these dental night guards and how you can manage sleep apnea with them.

dental night guards

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep disorder resulting from repeated breathing interruptions during sleep. It is caused by complete or partial airway obstruction or insufficient respiratory effort.

Types of Sleep Apnea

The most common types are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and complex sleep apnea syndrome, a combination of both.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
  • Occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax excessively, leading to a partial or complete airway blockage.
  • Frequent pauses in breathing (apneas) can last seconds to minutes, causing sleep disruptions.
  • Causes from a failure of the brain to transmit the right signals to the muscles responsible for controlling breathing.
  • Breathing may stop temporarily without any physical obstruction in the airway.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Loud and chronic snoring, often with gasping or choking sounds.
  • Vigorous daytime sleepiness and fatigue due to poor-quality sleep.
  • Morning headaches, dry mouth, sore throat, restless sleep, and difficulty staying asleep.
  • Associated mood disturbances, cognitive impairments, and decreased concentration.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

  • Obesity: Accumulation of fatty tissues around the airway.
  • Age: Prevalence increases with age.
  • Gender: Men are more prone than women.
  • Family history, nasal congestion, anatomical abnormalities, and substance use.

Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea

  • Chronic oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) due to repeated breathing disruptions.
  • Strains the cardiovascular system, which results in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and related complications.
  • Associated with increased risk of metabolic disorders, liver problems, and complications during pregnancy.
  • Negative impact on cognitive function, memory, and daytime functioning. Thus affecting work performance and quality of life.

With the said negative effects when lep apnea remains untreated, it is important to undergo diagnosis immediately through a sleep study (conducted in a sleep centre or through home sleep testing). This treatment aims to alleviate symptoms, improve sleep quality, and reduce associated health risks.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Treatment Options for Sleep ApneaDescription
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy
  • Employs a mask worn over the nose or both nose and mouth during sleep.
  • Connected to an advanced machine that delivers a constant fair pressure flow to keep airways open.
  • Gold standard treatment for managing sleep apnea and improving sleep quality.
Oral Appliances or Mandibular Advancement Devices
  • Custom-fit devices are designed to reposition the lower jaw or adjust the tongue’s position.
  • Aim to prevent airway obstruction and alleviate symptoms.
  • An alternative option for those who find CPAP uncomfortable.
  • Surgical interventions may be taken in severe cases or when other treatments are ineffective.
  • Procedures may involve removing excess tissues, repositioning the jaw, or addressing anatomical issues.
  • Determined based on the specific needs and conditions of the individual.
Positional Therapy
  • Involves changing sleep position to prevent airway collapse.
  • It is unsuitable for all cases, as effectiveness depends on the underlying root of sleep apnea.
  • It may be recommended in conjunction with other treatments.
Lifestyle Changes
  • Weight management and exercise to reduce obesity-related factors.
  • Avoidance of alcohol, sedatives, and tobacco, which can contribute to airway relaxation.
  • Positional adjustments during sleep and other behavioural modifications.

Night Guards: An Alternative Option for Sleep Apnea

Night guards, also called oral appliances, present a different way to address sleep apnea. While simultaneous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is seen as the top choice, night guards offer a non-invasive alternative. They can help ease symptoms and enhance sleep quality, especially for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. 

These are personalized oral appliances worn while sleeping. Their job is to adjust the position of the jaw and tongue. It ensures the airway stays open and prevents narrowing or collapse in the upper respiratory tract. 

By gently moving the lower jaw forward, night guards improve airflow, reducing snoring and interruptions in breathing linked to sleep apnea. These appliances are crafted from sturdy, BPA-free materials and can be adjusted for individual comfort and treatment requirements.

Who Benefits Most from Sleep Apnea Night Guards?

  • Those who find CPAP machines uncomfortable or challenging to use.
  • People seeking an alternative to traditional sleep apnea treatments.
  • Those advised by a healthcare professional based on their specific condition.

Alleviate Sleep Apnea Symptoms with Night Guards

Night guards bring several benefits to managing sleep apnea symptoms:

Improved Breathing

Night guards reposition the jaw and tongue, keeping the airway open for smoother and uninterrupted breathing during sleep.

Reduced Snoring

By promoting proper air passage and reducing airway obstruction, night guards effectively minimize snoring, a common sleep apnea symptom.

Enhanced Sleep Quality

Night guards help maintain an open airway, contributing to more restful and rejuvenating sleep and countering the fragmented sleep caused by sleep apnea.

Increased Oxygen Levels

Sleep apnea can cause low blood oxygen levels. Night guards assist in ensuring a consistent oxygen supply. It reduces the risk of oxygen deprivation and related health issues.

Enhanced Daytime Functioning

By improving sleep quality and reducing disturbances, night guards alleviate daytime symptoms. This includes increased alertness, improved cognitive function, and overall enhanced well-being.

These night guards work best for individuals with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Severe cases may still require CPAP therapy or other intensive treatments. However, night guards offer a valuable alternative for those uncomfortable with or struggling to comply with CPAP therapy. If you’re considering night guards, consult with trusted dentists in Maple Ridge. They’ll assess your condition, determine the severity of your sleep apnea, and recommend the most suitable treatment for you.

Types of Night Guards for Sleep Apnea

Night guards are a common oral appliance used to treat sleep apnea. They offer different options to improve symptoms and enhance sleep quality. Let’s explore the two main types: mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and tongue-retaining devices (TRDs).

Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)

  • Custom Fit: Tailored to ensure proper fit and comfort, made from safe materials.
  • Adjustability: Many MADs allow users to find the most comfortable jaw position for optimal treatment.
  • Snoring Reduction: Effectively reduces snoring by repositioning the jaw and minimizing throat tissue vibrations.
  • Treatment for Mild to Moderate Sleep Apnea: Non-invasive and suitable for mild to moderate cases, significantly improving sleep quality.

Tongue Retaining Devices (TRDs)

  • Tongue Positioning: Holds the tongue forward during sleep. Maintains an open airway and reduces the risk of obstruction.
  • Simplicity and Ease of Use: Easy to use, requiring minimal adjustments, made from soft and flexible materials.
  • Snoring Reduction: Similar to MADs, it reduces snoring by minimizing tongue-related vibrations.
  • Suitable for Different Jaw Structures: Alternative for individuals with specific jaw structures or dental conditions.

Effectiveness of Night Guards

Night guards are proven effective in treating various dental conditions like bruxism and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Scientific evidence supports their positive impact on symptom relief, patient satisfaction, and oral health.

Key Findings Include:

Reduction in Bruxism Symptoms

  • Night guards effectively decrease the frequency and intensity of bruxism. They prevent excessive teeth grinding and clenching during sleep.
  • Protect teeth from wear and tear, reducing complications like fractures and muscle tension.

Alleviation of TMJ Symptoms

  • Night guards provide relief from TMJ symptoms like jaw pain, headaches, and facial muscle discomfort.
  • The cushioning effect and force redistribution on the temporomandibular joint minimize stress and promote proper alignment.

Prevention of Tooth Damage

  • Night guards prevent direct contact by acting as a good barrier between the upper and lower teeth.
  • Reduce the risk of enamel erosion, tooth fractures, and other dental damage caused by bruxism or clenching.

Factors to Consider for Sleep Apnea Management

Selecting the appropriate night guard for sleep apnea management involves considering several factors:

Severity of Sleep ApneaMild, moderate, or severe – the choice may vary based on the severity of sleep apnea.
Type of Sleep ApneaDifferent types of night guards may be more suitable for obstructive or central sleep apnea.
Comfort and ComplianceComfort is significant for consistent use. Compliance with wearing the night guard regularly is essential for effectiveness.
CustomizationCustom-fitted night guards, tailored to an individual’s jaw structure, may offer superior results compared to over-the-counter options.

Potential Drawbacks

While the potential connection between night guards and sleep apnea management is promising, it’s essential to acknowledge potential drawbacks and limitations:

  • Results may differ, and not everyone may experience the same level of improvement.
  • Night guards should not replace standard sleep apnea treatments. They can be considered as complementary to other interventions.
  • Custom-fitted night guards may be more expensive and inaccessible to everyone.

dental night guards

Pick The Right Night Guard For You

Choosing the right dental night guard is important for it to work well. It’s best to talk to a dentist for advice because they can recommend the one that suits your needs and mouth health. Make sure it fits well, is personalized, and meets your needs.

A good-fitting night guard makes you comfortable, keeps your bite in line, and puts your jaw in the right position. It’s also important to choose the right material, be able to adjust it and make sure it stays in place.

Consider how severe your symptoms are, what you want from the treatment, your lifestyle, and how much effort you can put into caring for it. Westgate Dental Centre is a team of trusted dentists in Maple Ridge who will find a night guard to address your worries and improve your oral health and well-being. 

Call us now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sleep apnea night guards are generally safe but may have side effects. When choosing and using one, it’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider.

Common side effects, like drooling, dry mouth, gum irritation, headaches, tooth pain, and TMJ discomfort, often occur in the first two months but usually improve as you get used to the device. TMJ pain, if experienced, tends to lessen and often resolves within 6 to 12 months for most people.

Sleep apnea night guards are generally more affordable than CPAP therapy. The cost depends on the device, cleaning solution, initial exam, and follow-up dental appointments. Two-piece mouthguards are typically more expensive than one-piece designs.

Two-piece designs are considered more comfortable, but some find better results with more affordable one-piece designs. 

Professionals suggest opting for a custom-fitted, adjustable mouth guard obtained through a dentist, as these are deemed the most effective. These custom oral appliances are crafted from dental casts of your teeth. 

While lower-cost thermoplastic mouth guards are an option, they require self-fitting through heating and biting, but they are generally less effective than custom-fitted versions.

To keep your sleep apnea mouth guard clean, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Some suggest cleaning it every day as part of your morning routine. Use the recommended cleaning solution and brush, then rinse, dry, and store it according to the instructions. Soak and disinfect the mouth guard weekly using the recommended cleaning solution or tablet.

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