Terri’s Sleep Apnea StoryMay 05, 2016, by
Terri came to us with mild sleep apnea. At least, that was the diagnosis. To her, it didn’t seem so mild. She felt exhausted all the time, felt terrible when she woke up in the morning, she had regular headaches, and she was snoring. This all combined to make Terri pretty unhappy. Fortunately, we were able to treat her sleep apnea with a convenient, comfortable oral appliance.
Examining Terri’s Airway
In obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of the condition and the kind Terri had, a person’s airway is narrow. This means that it’s hard for your body to get enough air, especially at night when you’re sleeping. When you sleep, gravity is pulling your airway closed, and your muscles relax, allowing it to be closed. The result is that your own throat is choking you, cutting off your access to air. This is an apnea, which literally means “no breath.”
There are many reasons why our airway is narrow, but the fundamental issue is related to our jaw development. Partly related to the way our throat and mouth are configured for talking, we naturally have a narrow airway. It becomes even narrower if the lower jaw develops in a retruded position (moved toward the back). Even if your jaw developed well, allowing great space in your airway tooth wear and accommodating habits can cause your jaw to move backward.
When we first looked at Terri’s airway using 3D imaging, we could see the problem: it was somewhat constricted without, and thoroughly constricted in one point. There was no way she could get enough air through that airway, especially not when sleeping.
Widening the Airway
Fortunately, it’s often very easy to widen a person’s airway using the proper tools. We use an oral appliance. The oral appliance is a two-part mouthpiece. One part fits over the lower teeth and the other fits over the upper teeth. The two then are held in a specific relationship that:
- Keeps the teeth from touching
- Moves the lower jaw forward
- Expands the airway
When we imaged Terri’s airway while she was wearing her oral appliance, the difference was remarkable. Her airway had expanded tremendously, allowing a generous space for air to get through as long as she had her appliance in.
Terri couldn’t see the difference the appliance made, but she could feel it. As a result of wearing the oral appliance, Terri found she was much more rested in the morning, she had more energy throughout the day, her snoring stopped, and, best of all, she hasn’t had a headache since.
We are so happy we could help Terri overcome her sleep apnea and enjoy a better life.