Sleep Apnea Treatment

Covered by Medical Insurance – We are In-Network!

Sleep apnea is one of the few conditions mired in several myths. Some of the common misconceptions people have about this sleep disorder and its treatment include: (a) If you don’t feel tired or you don’t snore, you don’t have sleep apnea; (b) CPAP is the only treatment option for sleep apnea; (c) surgery is the only permanent cure for fixing sleep apnea; (d) sleep apnea treatment is unnecessary if symptoms are mild.

At Sleep Better Des Moines, our doctors, know that misinformation is a factor in why 80% of people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are still undiagnosed. They aim to change that by educating patients and helping them make informed decisions. Our experienced staff take a conservative but practical approach to treating sleep apnea. We offer oral appliance therapy, a valid alternative to the standard CPAP and surgical options, and guidance on practical lifestyle changes you can implement today to start sleeping better.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Sleep Better Des Moines provides different types of FDA-approved, custom-fabricated dental appliances that move your lower jaw slightly forward and, thus, open up your airway. You are required to wear this mouthguard only when you sleep. This does two things: a) it prevents you from snoring, and b) it stops any interruptions in your breathing, which are sleep apnea episodes.

Oral device therapy has shown remarkable results in many of our OSA patients, not only because it is effective but also because it’s so convenient to use. You don’t need to wear any confining face masks or hook yourself to a machine with continuous beeping noise throughout the night.

To use the device, put the retainer-like appliance in your mouth before you go to bed and enjoy a restorative sleep! The appliance is specifically made based on your dental anatomy.

Lifestyle Modifications

While not necessarily a treatment, making a few changes to your daily routine can support your treatment journey using an oral appliance. During your appointment, we take the time to learn about you and will ask some basic questions, such as:

  • What time do you usually go to bed and wake up?
  • Do you find it easy to fall asleep, or do you often lie awake?
  • How many hours of sleep do you get on a typical night?
  • What do you generally eat in a day?
  • Do you consume caffeine or alcohol, and how much?
  • Do you eat late in the evening or right before bedtime?
  • How frequently do you exercise?
  • What types of physical activity or workout do you engage in?
  • Do you feel that your current level of physical activity is enough?
  • Do you smoke, and if so, how much and how often?
  • How regularly do you consume alcohol, and in what quantities?
  • Are you currently taking any medications? What are they for?
  • Do you have other health conditions that affect your sleep or respiratory function?
  • In what position do you usually sleep? (Back, side, stomach)
  • Have you tried using pillows or other aids to help you sleep in a specific position?

Your answers will help our doctors understand the factors contributing to your sleep disorder and precisely what steps to take. If you consume a lot of caffeine or alcohol, especially close to bedtime, you might be advised to cut back. Both substances affect your ability to sleep deeply; alcohol relaxes your throat muscles, which may worsen your sleep apnea symptoms at night. 

If you tend to sleep on your back, we recommend trying to sleep on your side instead, as back sleeping can cause the tongue and soft palate to collapse into the airway more easily. Also, if you are taking prescription medicines for a medical issue and we find that they might be affecting your sleep or breathing, we can discuss alternatives or adjustments with your prescribing physician.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens after I decide to get fitted for an oral appliance?

First, you will discuss whether an oral appliance could help you with one of our doctors. If it sounds like a good fit, they will take molds of your teeth — similar to what you might experience during a routine dental visit for crowns or braces. These molds are then used to craft your very own oral appliance. When it’s ready, you will come back for a visit to ensure it fits just right, and we will show you how to use it. You might need one or two more visits to get everything adjusted perfectly.

Will I need to wear the appliance every night?

Yes, wearing it every night is key to keeping your sleep apnea symptoms at bay. It’s better to consider it part of your nightly routine, like brushing your teeth. If you skip nights, your symptoms will likely come back.

How do I care for my dental appliance?

Cleaning it is very simple. Each morning, rinse it off to remove any saliva. Then, give it a gentle scrub with a soft toothbrush—not the one you brush your teeth with. Dry it well before storing the device.

Can oral appliances be adjusted or modified once they are made?

Yes, we can adjust the appliance as needed. If something doesn’t feel right, give us a call!

What should I do if I am in pain while using the appliance?

If it hurts, don’t suffer in silence! Give us a call. We will ask you to come in so we can adjust the fit. Sometimes, you only need a small adjustment to make a big difference in how the appliance feels inside your mouth.

How quickly can I expect to see improvements in my symptoms?

Like most patients, you might start feeling better within the first night or two of using the appliance. You will wake up feeling more refreshed, or your partner will report less snoring. However, it should be noted that the full benefits depend on consistent use. You can’t expect it to work if you skip a night every few days.

Can I use an oral appliance while using other treatments for sleep apnea?

Absolutely! Oral appliances can be just one part of your sleep apnea treatment plan. Some of our patients find they get the best results when they combine the appliance with lifestyle changes like sleeping on their side. Your doctor may also suggest mixing it with a CPAP machine in more severe cases.

How would I know if the appliance is not working?

Watch for daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, or waking up frequently at night — signs that the appliance might not be doing its job. If you notice these symptoms creeping back, visit us to check if the device needs an adjustment or whether another treatment approach is needed.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

Our custom approach makes us one of Iowa’s trusted dental sleep medicine offices. Contact us for an appointment if you are in the greater Des Moines metropolitan area. Start with this free online sleep apnea screener to see if you might have sleep apnea. Our staff will guide you through the process of getting a home sleep test, and if you do have sleep apnea, we will recommend the most appropriate treatment options for you. Contact us today to get started.