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Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea - Know Your Options

Treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea – Know Your Options

Guest Post written by Bob Thomas from

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has quickly become an epidemic in the United States as the number of adults being diagnosed with this potentially dangerous condition has sharply risen over the past two decades. Some estimates show that over 26 million Americans are affected by OSA and this number is expected to rise in the coming years.

You may be wondering why OSA has become so prevalent in the United States. There are several reasons, one being that physicians are becoming more familiar with the condition and how it’s linked to other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, ADHD, depression, and anxiety.

With increased awareness of OSA, patients who are exhibiting symptoms of OSA are often referred to a sleep specialist who typically performs a polysomnogram or sleep study. In many cases, results confirm that the patient has sleep apnea.

Another reason why OSA is being diagnosed at an alarming rate is because the baby boom generation has reached the age where they are most susceptible to this condition.  While OSA can affect people of any age, the older we become, the more likely we are to experience this condition because the airway weakens as we age.

The third, and perhaps the most common reason for the increase in OSA epidemic is due to the rise in obesity which is primarily caused by poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. This is not to say that all with OSA are overweight and do not exercise, but a strong correlation between the two does exist.

So, what treatment option are available?

The “Gold Standard” Treatment for OSA

If you have been diagnosed with OSA, there is a very good chance that your doctor has suggested that you begin treatment using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. These machines use a series of hoses and a mask to attach to your nose and/or mouth to deliver a constant stream of air into your airway. This stream of air helps to prevent the airway from collapsing as you sleep.

CPAP machines have long been considered the “Gold Standard” for treating OSA for one simple reason – they work. The CPAP is very effective and requires little effort on the patients part with the exception of remembering to strap the mask on every night and powering up the machine. This is appealing to patients who are unwilling to commit to making lifestyle changes.  There are however a few items to consider before settling for a CPAP.

Many patients often find CPAP machines to be uncomfortable and noisy. This ultimately leads to low levels of compliance by those who are prescribed this treatment option. Those who actually remain dedicated to their treatment, typically find a machine and mask combination that they are comfortable with and are satisfied with the results that they experience.

However, there is one thing that most people fail to consider when choosing the CPAP and that is patients will have to carry around this machine everywhere they travel for the rest of their life. It’s advised that those with OSA should not miss a single night of treatment.  This means the machine must remain plugged in by your side every night and travel with you everywhere that you go, which can become much like a ball and chain. This can present a challenge if you travel often or enjoy activities such as camping.

Is there an alternative to marrying a CPAP machine?  Yes, there are actually a couple. Let’s start by examining oral appliances and how they can to help to treat OSA.

A More Convenient Alternative to the CPAP

The Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD) and Tongue Stabilizing Device (TSD) are two oral appliance alternatives to the CPAP that you may want to consider. Both can be effective, depending on the severity of your OSA. Best of all, such devices are easy to travel with and can easily fit into your pocket.

To understand how they work, let’s start by breaking down the name of this device. Mandibular, meaning mandible or jaw – Advancement means to move or hold forward and Device, which itself is explanatory. A MAD is simply a device that holds your jaw forward.

How does holding the jaw forward treat obstructive sleep apnea?

To answer this question, it’s essential to have basic understanding of the anatomy of the airway and how moving the jaw forward affects the airway.

With OSA, an obstruction in the airway occurs which severely restricts and often completely prevents air to pass. Simply put, when an oral appliance is in place, the airway remains tight and does not collapse which treats the issue.

Although not as popular, the TSD essentially performs the same task by holding the tongue forward instead of the jaw. Both products are an effective alternative to the CPAP and are easily adopted by patients.

As for paying for an oral appliance, most insurance companies will assist with the cost of acquiring such a device. Keep in mind that there are several manufacturers to choose from and each have their own distinctive advantage and disadvantages. Speak with your dentist who can help you choose an oral appliance that is right for you.

While oral appliances are an excellent option because they are more compact and easy to use, they must still be used on a nightly basis for the remainder of your life.

How would you like to free yourself of having to be committed to the use of a CPAP or an oral appliance? Is this even possible? Treating OSA using conservation methods is not only possible but is also likely for many people. In many cases, committed patients can reduce or even eliminate their need for CPAP.

The Ultimate Treatment Option

Perhaps the best long term treatment option that will ultimately allow you to free yourself from the use of all machines and oral appliances is the use of alternative medicine.

Dr. Hopper at Whole Human Health specializes in Oral Myofunctional Therapy (OMT) which can help to eliminate your life-long dependency on the use of such products. He is one of only 300 practitioners world-wide who is able to perform OMT.

What exactly is OMT and how can it help to eliminate sleep apnea?

With OMT, you will begin by having Dr. Hopper conduct a comprehensive exam to examine your overall health. A whole body examination is conducted which includes areas such as the oral cavity, nervous system, posture, as well as several other areas.

Once the exam is complete, you will receive a sleep test which can be completed from the comfort of your home. This test is administered at home for three nights and provides valuable information which can be useful in treating this condition.

Dr. Hopper will walk you through a non-invasive treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your dependency on an oral appliance or CPAP machine. This treatment may require the patient to perform specialized exercises for a period of between 6 and 12 months and perhaps make some dietary changes as well as changes to increase physical activity. These exercises can help to correct improper muscle patterns which can restore the airway to prevent collapsing and obstruction.  While this treatment requires dedication and compliance on the patients end, the results are often life changing.

If you are currently using an oral appliance or CPAP machine and would like to reduce your dependency on either, Dr. Hopper can help. He specializes in working with patients who are currently using a CPAP or MAD and can create a customized plan to achieve your goals.

The Choice is Yours

When it comes to treating your Obstructive Sleep Apnea,  you have several choices. CPAP machines are highly effective, but as mentioned, they must remain by your side each and every night. CPAP machines require patients to find the right machine and equipment as well as make necessary adjustments to the pressure in order to make it both effective and comfortable.  While they are a great choice for many, portability is a major drawback.

Oral appliances, when fitted properly, can be an excellent alternative to the CPAP and are usually very effective at treating mild to moderate OSA. They are compact and require no electricity to operate. The oral appliance does share the same downfall as the CPAP which is that in most cases, it must be used for the remainder of your life.

Oral Myofunctional Therapy is a third alternative that can be a long-term solution to your issue with obstructive sleep apnea. This non-invasive therapy can provide a way for you to free yourself of having to rely on a device to prevent your sleep apnea. While this option requires the most effort on your end, you can enjoy several more years of independence.

If you are interested in discussing OMT with Dr. Hopper, give him a call at (630) 487-1810 and he will be glad to help you reach your goals.

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