Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can potentially be serious, and is typically characterized by loud snoring and the feeling of fatigue even after sleeping. There are two types of sleep apnea, the most common of which is called obstructive sleep apnea and which occurs when the throat muscles relax. The second type, central sleep apnea, happens when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. Both types of sleep apnea exhibit such symptoms as excessive daytime drowsiness, loud snoring, periods of breathing cessation during sleep, morning headache and dry mouth, and difficulty staying asleep at night.

Where the two differentiate however, is in their respective causes. Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the throat muscles relax and the airway narrows to make breathing difficult. The brain senses this problem and wakes the person up to get fresh air. On the other hand, central sleep apnea is triggered by a more serious issue, usually some kind of heart failure or stroke.

How dental appliances can help

For obstructive sleep apnea, dental appliances have been shown to be highly effective treatments in the reduction or elimination of the symptoms, as well as in permitting a full and restful sleep at night. One of the best known of these dental appliances is the Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP), which uses a dial mechanism to slightly pull the jaw forward, thus keeping the airway clear. With the airway clear all night, snoring is eliminated and breathing becomes regular and uninterrupted.

The Moses device is named for its inventor, Dr. Allen Moses, and is also designed to keep the airway open all night. Like the TAP device, it has been shown to be remarkably effective, although this mandibular device adds an element to the open airway strategy by also incorporating management of the tongue. This in turn reduces elevator muscle activity as well as clenching, to increase patient comfort during the night and further promote a restful sleep.