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A study conducted by Swedish scientists reveals oral appliance therapy, which uses a “mouth guard-like” device to treat sleep apnea, may also improve a host of cognitive functions.
The research, published this year in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep, studied 50 male patients with moderate-to-severe OSA who received an oral appliance, which is worn only during sleep to maintain an open, unobstructed airway. In addition to treating the physiological aspects of OSA, the study found the device improved cognitive functions such as memory, vigilance, executive functioning and mental pace after only six months’ time.
“Depending on the patient’s needs, the custom-fitted oral appliance will either hold the tongue in place or support the jaw in a forward position to keep the patient’s airway open and provide a more refreshing sleep,” said B. Gail Demko, DMD, president of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. “Research suggests that oral appliance therapy often can equal CPAP in effectiveness and offers a higher compliance rate than CPAP, and the Swedish study indicates there may be another significant benefit to oral appliance therapy.”
Dentists pioneered the use of oral appliance therapy to treat OSA, which afflicts 12-18 million adults in the U.S. Loud and frequent snoring is a common symptom, and people who have OSA stop breathing from a few seconds to more than a minute at a time. These breathing pauses are repeated throughout the night, occurring hundreds of times during one night of sleep in severe cases. OSA is a potentially life threatening condition that can increase the risk for a number of serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke.
Oral appliance therapy is as an effective alternative to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which are the traditionally-recommended treatment for sleep apnea. Some patients find it difficult to sleep with a CPAP machine, which includes a face mask, tubing and a constantly running motor. According to the AADSM, up to 50 percent of sleep apnea patients do not comply with or tolerate CPAP.
For many, oral appliance devices are more comfortable to wear than a CPAP mask. The devices also are quiet, portable and easy to care for. Oral appliance therapy is recommended for people with mild to moderate OSA. Once a patient is diagnosed with primary snoring or OSA by a board-certified sleep physician, a dentist trained in dental sleep medicine can provide treatment with oral appliance therapy.
Dr. James Tasto is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and has been treating patients who snore or have OSA for years. If you or someone you love snores, please call my office at 858-523-1330 for a FREE SLEEP EXAM. This might be the first step in improving your memory and your life.
Born and raised in San Diego, Dr. James Tasto attended University of San Diego High School where he lettered in both golf and wrestling. After earning a Bachelors in Science from Loyola Marymount University, Dr. Tasto graduated from University of Southern California Dental School with an emphasis on cosmetics and sports dentistry. Dr. James Tasto was selected by his peers to be included in the List of Top Dentists in San Diego for 2007 – 2013. He appeared in the May issue of San Diego Magazine. Dr. Tasto is also a member of D.O.C.S. (Doctors Offering Charitable Services), a local organization that offers medical services such as plastic surgery, vision and dental to the less fortunate patients in San Diego. Dr. Tasto currently resides in San Diego with his lovely wife Traci and their 3 children. He enjoys golf, beach volleyball and playing with his kids.