Millions of people suffer from sleep problems, but one of the most common ones is sleep apnea. Simply put, sleep apnea refers to when the sleeper stops breathing for a few seconds during the course of his or her sleep. Some people can even stop breathing for anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds or even longer, and they might do so a hundred times during the course of the night. Most people don’t realize that they have sleep apnea until a concerned sleeping partner informs them that they stopped breathing during the middle of the night. People who do suffer from sleep apnea are advised to seek medical attention immediately since the condition can lead to various other medical issues such as severe daytime drowsiness, heart conditions and even stroke.
What Is CPAP?
CPAP is the acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and it’s basically a device that is specifically designed to make it so that the sleeper can get the appropriate amount of oxygen during the course of the night. The devices work by gently blowing a stream of pressurized air into the sleeper’s mouth while he or she is sleeping. This helps keep the airway open and from collapsing. The airway passage collapsing is what causes people to stop breathing during their sleep.
How CPAP Affects Dental Care
Most patients end up turning to CPAP when oral dental devices don’t work. Sometimes when a patient is experiencing a loss of breath during sleep, he or she will be outfitted with a mandibular advancement device, also simply referred to as MAD. This is the type of dental device that looks similar in appearance to a mouth guard, but instead of being designed to protect the mouth while playing extreme sports, it’s designed to ease the lower jaw slightly forward. They usually feature metal hinges that can be adjusted to change how eased the lower jaw is.
Another type of dental device that is sometimes used for breathing problems is known as a tongue retaining device. This type of oral device basically serves as a splint that keeps the tongue out of the way of the air passage so that the sleeper can get plenty of oxygen during sleep. When neither this device or MAD works, dentists and doctors usually conclude that the sleeper needs to turn to CPAP.
How CPAP Is Performed
CPAP devices simply consist of a simple machine that has a mask attached to it. The sleep wears the mask over his or her face at night. The mask usually only covers the mouth and nose portions of the face, and it’s connected to a tube that is then connected to the motor that emits the pressurized air. The mask is usually just slipped over the sleeper’s head and affixed to it via two adjustable straps, one of which is located at the top of the forehead, and the other of which connects at the nasal area. The mask doesn’t cover the sleeper’s face, so it’s not necessarily like wearing a full mask.
Caring for a CPAP Device
Because the CPAP device blows pressurized air in and out of the airway passage, it’s important to keep it clean and free of impurities. This is usually done by simply switching out masks and hoses periodically as well as washing the mask daily in warm water. The straps don’t have to be washed as often, just as needed. Additionally, the humidifier chamber needs to be cleaned out daily to keep any bacteria from building up in it. The humidifier chamber contains water that should be changed, and the chamber itself should be washed with warm, soapy water as well. When washing either the mask or the humidifier chamber, make sure to use a mild detergent, or purpose cleaning solution that is specifically made from CPAP machines and accessories. There’s also a grey non-disposable filter that’s located inside the machine, and it should be cleaned at least once a week with the same detergents used on the other CPAP equipment.
American Sleep Association. “CPAP vs BiPAP.” Retrieved on March 23, 2016, from https://www.sleepassociation.org/cpap-vs-bipap/.
National Sleep Foundation. “CPAP: Treating sleep apnea.” Retrieved on March 23, 2016, from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/continuous-positive-airway.
American Sleep Association
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National Sleep Foundation
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