Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the obstruction of the back of the throat which leads to cessations in breathing lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to over a minute per episode. Multiple episodes can occur during one night. The condition is most prevalent in adults over the age of 40 in Ireland and can result in poor sleep quality for both the sufferer and their partners.

OSA sufferers are known to snore loudly for sustained periods of time which is often followed by a brief period of silence before the sufferer proceeds to choke, snort, or gasp once their airway reopens. Living with OSA isn’t a necessity; the solution to resolving this condition may lie with your dentist.

Getting Properly Diagnosed Is Key

Before any treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea can be prescribed, the condition needs to be appropriately diagnosed. Although you may present with all of the key symptoms, you could suffer from a combination of sleep conditions and/or there may be other health factors which need to be considered. The only definite way to receive a diagnosis is to visit a sleep specialist and partake in an overnight sleep study.

Your treatment will depend on the severity of your condition. Severe cases of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, where the sufferer experiences 30+ interruptions to their breathing in a 60 minute period, are typically treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, which blow a stream of pressurised air through a mask into your respiratory system. Mild-moderate cases of OSA, where sufferers experience 5-20 interruptions to breathing during a 60 minute period may instead be prescribed dental devices to help with their condition.

Dental Devices for Sleep Apnea

There are many over-the-counter devices available which are designed to aid sleep apnea however only devices which have been custom designed for your mouth will offer the most effective results. When it comes to a serious sleep condition like OSA, sufferers should take care to visit a dentist to get a custom fitted dental device and a personalised treatment plan to suit your particular requirements. A dentist will review the results of your overnight sleep study and diagnosis and can create a customised sleep appliance which you can wear over your teeth at night. Your dentist will take impressions of your upper and lower teeth, as well as registering the required jaw position so that the most effective device can be created.

There are “wings” on the lower part of the dental device which contact the upper extensions, ensuring to keep your lower jaw positioned forward, in turn maintaining an open airway. The screws on each side of the device can be adjusted to position the jaw further forward. Your airways cannot get obstructed while you sleep thus preventing the OSA “events” where cessation of breathing occurs. These custom dental devices can often be more comfortable to wear than CPAP masks. They won’t get knocked out during your sleep too even if you tend to move a lot at night.


Oral appliances have been proven to be very effective in addressing mild cases of OSA when used appropriately. If you have been diagnosed with the condition, speak to your dentist about they can help you to control the condition and enjoy a better quality sleep.

Written by : Dr. Tom Munroe


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