adult man using an oral appliance before bedTo understand how oral appliance therapy provides health benefits above and beyond the obvious ones related to the alignment of your teeth and jaws, it’s important to first realize the connection between sleep apnea and snoring. An Aberdeen, NC dentist who practices neuromuscular dentistry will often treat your malocclusion with an oral appliance. Malocclusion is the medical term for misaligned teeth—meaning the upper and lower teeth do not meet (or align) properly in a resting position.

Malocclusion results in a number of painful symptoms that prompt many North Carolinians to seek out an Aberdeen, NC, neuromuscular dentist. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Jaw pain
  • Jaw tightness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Clicking/popping sounds in the jaw
  • Neck pain
  • Facial pain
  • Difficulty, painful chewing
  • Headache

Closely tied to alignment issues are snoring and sleep apnea.

Oral Appliance for TMJ

If you’re suffering from TMJ/TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), an oral appliance may be the best treatment option for you. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the most common type being Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), oral appliance therapy (different than a TMJ oral appliance) will likely change your life by allowing you more restful, uninterrupted sleep. TMJ oral appliances helps patients with their painful TMD symptoms by gradually realigning their bites, and oral appliance therapy allows for uninterrupted, restful sleep. Oral appliances in Aberdeen, North Carolina, are also improving the health and wellbeing of patients in many other ways.

First, Let’s Explore Obstructive Sleep Apnea

While there are three types of sleep apnea, OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) is the most common. It’s estimated that over 30 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, but many of those people are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, which means they do not ever receive treatment for this potentially life-threatening medical condition.

OSA causes a blockage of your airway while you sleep. In most cases of OSA, the muscles of the throat relax, and the soft palate and tongue collapse blocking your airway. When this occurs (sometimes hundreds of times during the night), you stop

breathing and often choke and gasp for air. Many people sleep through these lapses in breathing (lapses can last ten seconds or even longer); others wake up numerous times during the night.

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is much less common than OSA and occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing while you sleep.

Mixed sleep apnea, also known as “complex sleep apnea syndrome,” is a combination of OSA and CSA. Signs and symptoms of the different types of sleep apnea make accurate diagnosis challenging, but most people suffer from OSA. The good news is that sleep apnea is treatable, but you have to be medically diagnosed with a sleep study first. Once that happens, an Aberdeen oral appliance therapy dentist can help.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, most sleep studies were done in facilities. Now, some patients are provided with equipment that monitors their sleep in the comfort of their own homes. The equipment measures heart rate, airflow, blood oxygen levels, breathing patterns, and even leg movements. Once you get an accurate diagnosis, treatment may begin.

Types of Oral Appliance Therapy

There are two types of oral appliances:

Mandibular repositioning device (MRD)—these appliances move your lower jaw forward and down ever so slightly to keep your airway unobstructed while you sleep and are the most common type.

Tongue retaining device (TRD)—these appliances hold your tongue in place to keep your airway free and clear while you sleep.

Neuromuscular orthodontics in Aberdeen, NC, will determine which oral appliance is best suited for your treatment goals.

Oral Appliance Therapy and Health

There’s been exciting research published in Sleep Review indicating that in addition to helping those with snoring and sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy may also provide benefits to those with low to mild cognitive impairment and those with Alzheimer’s disease. While the research is in its very early stages and only a small sample of people were involved in the study linked above, the results are promising. Let’s take a look at what this particular study revealed.

In layman’s terms, the study showed that the interrupted sleep that comes with sleep apnea and snoring prevents the brain from functioning properly. Improper brain function can allow proteins to build up in certain areas of the brain. These accumulated protein pockets may eventually form what is known as “amyloid plaques” in the gray matter of the brain. Amyloid plaque formation is present in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Oral appliance therapy results in restful, uninterrupted sleep allowing the brain to perform its housekeeping duties preventing the protein accumulations that could lead to amyloid plaque formation found in Alzheimer’s

While the research is in its very early stages, the implications for how oral appliance therapy may improve health and cognitive function and even possibly prevent Alzheimer’s disease are quite astonishing.

Learn More About Oral Appliance Therapy in Pinehurst

If you snore, have sleep apnea, or suffer from any of the painful symptoms of TMD, please contact Kuhn Dental Associates, serving Aberdeen, North Carolina, and surrounding areas, by calling (910) 692-4450. Please use our online contact form, and one of our dental team members will reach out shortly.