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Occlusal Guards/Sleep Apnea Devices

What are Occlusal Guards?

Oral appliances such as occlusal guards and sleep apnea devices are used to help our patients improve their quality of life. Both occlusal guards and sleep apnea devices are custom-made appliances that are made to fit the unique anatomy of a person’s mouth. They are made from comfortable materials and can help offset the symptoms and side effects of conditions that greatly affect quality of life.

Purpose of an Occlusal Guard

The purpose of an occlusal guard is to protect biological teeth and custom restorations from the effects of grinding and clenching the teeth. The act of clenching and grinding teeth, also known as bruxism, wears down tooth enamel, can increase the incidence of dental injuries and tooth decay, and strain the joints (TMJs) that connect the lower jaw to the skull. An occlusal guard will fit over the teeth to prevent contact during episodes of bruxism from damaging teeth and dental work.

How an Occlusal Guard is Made

Our practice utilizes advanced technology to determine the specifications of a custom occlusal guard. Our prosthodontist, Dr. Bicakci, uses T-Scan, a revolutionary device that is positioned inside the mouth. This device uses advanced sensors to analyze the contact points between teeth when the mouth is closed. The data generated by T-Scan will be used in the fabrication process of a custom occlusal guard to ensure that it is effective and comfortable.

Sleep Apnea and Your Wellbeing

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that can rob a person of his or her quality of life. This condition often goes undetected because it manifests its symptoms while a person is sleeping. OSA involves a pattern of breathing cessation followed by slight wakefulness, which can occur many times throughout the night. Breathing cessation, or apnea, is caused by airways obstructed by soft oral tissues. As a patient ceases to breathe, the brain will signal the body to waken slightly so that breathing resumes. Sleep apnea impedes its sufferers of rejuvenating rest because sleepers cannot transition naturally through each sleep cycle.

Untreated sleep apnea causes sleep deprivation, which can manifest as persistent fatigue and impaired cognition. Beyond the common side effects of sleep deprivation, a wealth of research suggests that OSA contributes to heart disease, pulmonary issues such as hypoxia, and stroke.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

In the past, the most common treatment protocol for obstructive sleep apnea was the use of a CPAP machine. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines utilize a steady stream of air to keep oral tissue from obstructing airways. While this treatment is effective, the machinery is bulky and loud. It can also severely dry out the mouth. Fortunately, there is a more comfortable option. Sleep apnea devices are custom oral appliances that hold the lower jaw in a forward position. This will keep airways open without the need for uncomfortable or noisy machinery.

If you believe you might have sleep apnea or have worn down teeth caused by bruxism, call our office to schedule an appointment with our team.

Common Questions

What is an occlusal guard?

An occlusal guard is an oral appliance that is worn to protect teeth and other oral structures from damaged caused by bruxism (the habit of clenching and/or grinding teeth). Most patients will wear an occlusal guard during sleep but if their bruxism is severe, they may need to wear one during the daytime, too.

Occlusal guards are custom made for each patient so that they fit perfectly over teeth and inside the mouth. These oral appliances are comfortable because they are made from soft yet protective materials. Occlusal guards are ideal for those who have a history of tooth wear and damage caused by bruxism and those who have custom restorations like veneers or crowns.

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is the habit of clenching and grinding teeth. Many patients brux their teeth as a response to anxiety, stress, chronic pain, or trauma. Over time, this habit can weaken tooth enamel substantially. As tooth enamel breaks down, teeth become vulnerable to becoming brittle, decayed, and permanently injured. If a person has dental work like fillings, crowns, and veneers, severe bruxism can damage these restorations, which may require further repair or replacement.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder than involves airway obstruction while a person is at rest. During episodes of apnea, a sleeper will literally stop breathing for small periods of time. Soft tissues collapsing into, and ultimately obstructing, the airways causes this cessation of breathing. As breathing stops, the brain sends signals to rouse the sleeper slightly to reinitiate the breathing cycle. Even though the sleep apnea sufferer doesn’t fully awaken, his or her sleep cycle will be disrupted. In fact, sleep apnea prevents a person from natural progressing through each stage of sleep and the REM cycle.

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to many health complications. This condition causes severe sleep deprivation and fatigue because it encumbers a person’s ability to achieve deep, restful sleep. Moreover, the cycle of apnea and waking strains the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. Research indicates that sleep apnea increases the risk for heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. Sleep apnea impairs motor and cognitive function as well.

Will a sleep apnea device help my snoring?

Snoring commonly accompanies sleep apnea. This is because bulky oral tissue that block airways vibrate during breathing. Since a sleep apnea device repositions the lower mandible (jawbone) forward, the airway stays open. Many people who suffer with sleep apnea and use a sleep apnea device also enjoy a reduction in obstructive and loud snoring.

Why do I need a sleep apnea device?

Simply put, you need a sleep apnea device to achieve the rest you need and deserve while you sleep. This device will help prevent episodes of apnea and, in doing so, stave off the many negative effects of this sleep disorder.

Questions? Write to us!

American College Of Prosthodontists