There are several different systems that deliver air and pressure through the nose or mouth. The continuous delivery of pressurized air helps to keep the tissues in the throat open. Some CPAP masks fit over the mouth and nose, while others fit over only the nose. Some devices simply deliver a preset amount of air at a preset unit of pressure. Other devices deliver more pressure with every inhalation and a bit less with every exhalation. Other devices monitor breathing and only add pressure if the machine senses a breathing abnormality.
Many of the devices are uncomfortable to wear if not fitted properly. They often dry out the nose and/or mouth, irritate the skin, leave you with a headache, and are bulky and tight to wear. However, CPAP devices provide clear benefits if you have sleep apnea that ranges from mild to severe.
Several dental devices are available to treat sleep apnea. These devices may hold the tongue down, thrust it forward, or thrust the lower jaw forward. These devices seem to be less frustrating to use than CPAP devices, although they are only effective as a treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea.
This procedure allows stiffening of the palate by implanting permanent pieces of silastic, a silicone elastomer. This procedure may be more effective for treating snoring than sleep apnea. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, the implant may help to reduce daytime sleepiness.
Radiofrequency ablation uses heat to destroy abnormal tissue. Applying this technology to the palate and the base of the tongue can shrink the tissue and widen the airway. Ablation is successful in the treatment of snoring, but studies do not show adequate effectiveness in the treatment of sleep apnea.
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How is sleep apnea treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea/treatment. Updated July 10, 2012. Accessed December 6, 2016.
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Sleep apnea. American Sleep Apnea Association website. Available at: http://www.sleepapnea.org/learn/sleep-apnea.html. Accessed December 6, 2016.
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Last reviewed December 2016 by Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 1/11/2016