Do you often feel excessively tired, even after a full night of rest? Do you snore so loudly that it keeps you or your partner awake? Do you ever wake up gasping for air? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you might have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). If so, you’re not alone; 18 million people are expected to have sleep apnea in the US. On top of that, 80 percent of them remain undiagnosed and have no idea that they are dealing with a life-altering sleep disorder. Anyone can have OSA, regardless of age or gender.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, getting a diagnosis and starting treatment is key to addressing your symptoms and improving your well-being. When untreated, sleep apnea can affect more than the quality of your sleep. It can also impact several significant aspects of your mental and physical health. People with OSA are more likely to have depression, acid reflux, asthma, high blood pressure, mental confusion, and memory loss. On top of OSA’s association with chronic conditions such as these, it also worsens daily functioning and can impact every aspect of your life, from your relationships to success at work.

While an occasional night of poor sleep is normal, regularly failing to sleep well could be a sign of an underlying condition like OSA, so if you struggle with insomnia, don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical professional. With the right treatment, you can improve your life by targeting OSA and the root cause of your symptoms rather than temporarily relieving them. Keep reading to learn all about one of the most common causes of OSA, as well as how you can address this issue with a Vivos appliance to not only sleep better at night but also improve your life.

What is obstructive sleep apnea? 

OSA is one of the most common sleep disorders. It occurs when the airway becomes blocked throughout the night as you sleep, causing you to stop breathing for periods of time. While air normally travels from the nose and mouth to the lungs seamlessly, those with OSA experience interrupted airflow repeatedly throughout the night. In fact, these short pauses can last for 10–30 seconds and occur hundreds of times in one night!

A whopping 90 percent of people with sleep apnea have obstructive sleep apnea, making it by far the most common form of the sleep disorder. Signs and symptoms of OSA include the following:

  • Snoring
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Abrupt awakenings due to difficulty breathing
  • Morning headache
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty concentrating

Not everyone who snores has OSA, but if you notice that your snoring is loud enough to wake yourself or others, you wake up gasping or choking, or you’re excessively sleepy, consult a doctor. Even if it’s not OSA, there may be an underlying cause preventing you from getting enough sleep.

How does jaw position affect OSA? 

There are several things that can cause an obstruction to your airway, such as obesity, genetics, congestion, cigarette smoking, and sleeping on your back. Anatomical characteristics like the size and position of the neck, tongue, jaw, and other tissues can also directly affect airflow. For example, a small upper airway, large tongue, and small mouth can all cause someone to develop OSA. These features are genetically determined, which explains why those with a history of OSA in their family are more likely to also have the sleep disorder.

More specifically, a misaligned jaw can make a significant contribution to OSA. Many people with sleep apnea also have temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), which occurs when the temporomandibular joint—the joint that connects your jaw to your skull—is damaged. About 75 percent of people with TMJ also have sleep apnea. Difficulty breathing through the nose, orthodontics, tooth wear, and developmental factors can all alter the shape of the jaw or cause it to shift backward, putting pressure on the joint and therefore narrowing the airway.

Not only can TMJ and a misaligned jaw contribute to the development of OSA, but sleep apnea can also cause the brain to send signals to the body to clench your jaw in the hopes of opening the airway. This can worsen both conditions, as clenching your teeth can contribute to joint damage and other jaw problems, intensifying the pain associated with TMJ and further impacting your quality of sleep.

How can you treat OSA when it’s caused by a misaligned jaw? 

If you’re struggling with OSA due to a misaligned jaw or TMJ, you must be able to treat both conditions simultaneously to see authentic improvements in your condition. Otherwise, treatment of OSA will only be addressing the symptoms you experience, not the sleep disorder itself. Treatment must also keep both conditions in mind. For example, if you are being treated for TMJ with a bite splint, consideration of whether the bite splint further restricts the airway is necessary before proceeding. Similarly, certain sleep apnea treatments may place more stress on the jaw, causing further damage. This is why it’s important to find a treatment that targets the root cause of OSA.

For example, oral appliance therapy is a great alternative to other sleep apnea treatments in cases caused by a misaligned jaw. These devices are designed to prevent the tongue from blocking the throat and position the jaw in a way to keep the airway open during sleep. One example of this is the snoring appliance provided by The Vivos System. This oral appliance technology is used to treat mild-to-moderate OSA. The Vivos appliance is indicated for use to treat sleep apnea, snoring, and disordered breathing in adults.

How does The Vivos System work? 

The Vivos System is a nonsurgical, all-natural, and nonpharmaceutical approach to treating sleep apnea. It is prescribed by dentists in collaboration with medical doctors and is available only under the direction of a multidisciplinary healthcare team. Using a Vivos appliance typically begins with a complete diagnosis of your condition by a medical doctor working closely with your dentist. Diagnosis with The Vivos System involves preliminary screening, a head and neck examination, photos and measurements, and the use of an in-home sleep test.

Once you have an initial consultation and receive a comprehensive diagnosis, you will receive a custom treatment plan that is tailored to your condition. Your dentist will design a Vivos medical device for you, which you will wear in the evening and at night while you sleep. A typical treatment plan requires a year or two of commitment, including plenty of healthy sleep, good nutrition, and regular visits with your healthcare team. In order to ensure the most effective treatment possible, your dentist will make regular adjustments to your Vivos appliance.

By the time patients finish treatment with Vivos, many of them do not need any further intervention to sleep and breathe properly throughout the night. This means that you could experience a lifetime of relief after just a few years of commitment! To learn more about how your jaw may be causing OSA and impacting the quality of your sleep, as well as how The Vivos System can help, reach out to your dentist or medical provider.