Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring is the sound of partially obstructed breathing during sleep. While snoring can be harmless, it can also be the sign of a more serious medical condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).When Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs, the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat and completely block the airway, which restricts the flow of oxygen. The condition known as Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), is midway between primary snoring and true obstructive sleep apnea. People with UARS suffer many of the symptoms of OSA but require special sleep testing techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. My husband snores. Does he need an oral appliance?
Oral appliance therapy to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea should be provided by an experienced dentist. However, prior to beginning treatment, an overnight sleep study (polysomnogram) should be performed by a medical doctor to objectively identify the problem and its severity. Following this, Dr. Ron can work closely with the physician to treat the problem in the most effective way. An overnight polysomnogram can be arranged through the family doctor.

2. Are oral appliances effective? Where can I obtain studies demonstrating their effectiveness?
In the 1980's, physicians and dentists began to seriously study the effectiveness of oral appliances to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea and found them to be effective in many, but not all cases. Recent studies show oral appliances to be most effective in treating snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. However, some appliances have been shown to effectively treat severe apnea in some cases. While oral appliances are often effective, it is important to know that they are not adequate for everyone and to date, it is not possible to predict the successes from the failures prior to treatment.

3. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. How do I know if I have mild, moderate or severe apnea?
The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is with an overnight sleep study. Depending on the physician's preference, this study can be performed in the hospital or at home. It will objectively measure many parameters throughout the night that will aid the physician in determining the severity of the problem. Some of the important measurements include: how often breathing is interrupted; the quality of sleep; the oxygen level in the blood; the heart rate; and excessive bodily movements. The severity of the sleep apnea is determined by the assessment of these parameters and should be thoroughly discussed with you by your physician. Dr. Ron will work closely with physicians and understand the details of the sleep study and they effect the therapy.

4. What does RDI stand for?
The term RDI stands for Respiratory Disturbance Index and is one very important measure of the severity of the sleep disorder. The RDI is a number that represents how many times per hour breathing stops or becomes very shallow. This index is important because it is often associated with disruption of sleep and dangerous drops in blood oxygen levels. Most physicians agree that an RDI below 10 is normal while an RDI over 40 may indicate severe disease.

5. What's the difference between snoring and obstructive sleep apnea?

The term Sleep Disordered Breathing describes a number of sleep breathing disorders that includes snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep Disordered Breathing is viewed as a continuum where simple snoring represents a mild disorder during which breathing during sleep is very loud due to the near collapse of the upper airway. When the snoring becomes worse due to further airway collapse (to the point where sleep is interrupted) the term upper airway resistance syndrome is used. Most serious, is the complete collapse of the airway that is termed obstructive sleep apnea. During an apnea, breathing cannot occur and the sleeper is forced to awaken to resume normal breathing.

6. Will my appliance be covered by medical insurance? Will Medicare cover my appliance?
Oral appliances are sometimes covered by insurance. They are often not covered by commercial insurance carriers, HMO's and Medicare for a variety of reasons including: lack of knowledge and understanding by insurance companies of the recent advances in oral appliance therapy in the treatment of sleep apnea; snoring (only) is not a recognized medical condition by the medical field; and lack of CPT or medical reimbursement code for oral appliance therapy.

7. Does the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine work directly with patients to obtain insurance coverage?

The AADSM is a non-profit professional membership organization. We teach dentists and physicians how to use oral appliance therapy to treat sleep disordered breathing. However, we do not work directly with patients in relation to their insurance companies. You must work with your AADSM trained dentist, physician and insurance carrier.

8. What is the price range for oral appliances?
There are presently over 40 different oral appliances available. Fees are determined by the individual dentist and differ according to the cost of the appliance itself along with the time and skill necessary to achieve a long-term therapeutic end result. Patients are cautioned to understand that effective therapy rendered by a properly trained dentist using a durable, adjustable appliance will not fall into the inexpensive end of the fee scale.

9. Is there an insurance code for my appliance?
To date, there is no formal CPT or medical reimbursement code for oral appliances. However, some insurance companies have codes that may be utilized to attain benefits. These codes vary from company to company and require personal communications from the dentist to find these codes that may be of value.

10. Does the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine recommend a specific appliance over another?
The AADSM does not endorse specific appliances. Recent studies however, are showing that custom-made adjustable appliances that move the lower jaw forward are very effective. In addition, tongue-retaining devices have been shown to be effective.



What happens when you stop breathing during sleep?
If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing during sleep, and the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood is upset. This imbalance stimulates the brain to restart the breathing process. The brain signals you to wake up so that the muscles of the tongue and throat can increase the size of the airway. Then, carbon dioxide can escape, and oxygen can enter the airway. These waking episodes are necessary to restart breathing (and to save your life), but because of them, you become sleep-deprived.
Sleep apnea has serious health consequences and can even be life-threatening. The main effects of sleep apnea are sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation.

Sleep deprivation

Both the person with sleep apnea and the bed partner suffer from sleep deprivation. A bed partner may lose an hour or more of sleep each night from sleeping next to a person with sleep apnea. Along with the apnea episodes, the person afflicted with sleep apnea may have additional trouble sleeping caused by side effects of the condition, including a frequent need to get up and urinate during the night, and excessive nighttime sweating.
Some trickle-down effects of sleep deprivation are a compromised immune system, poor mental and emotional health, irritability, and slower reaction time, among other problems.

Oxygen deprivation

When you stop breathing, your brain does not get enough oxygen. Drastic problems can result from the oxygen deprivation of sleep apnea, including heart disease, high blood pressure, sexual disfunction, and learning/memory problems.

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