Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with an obstruction of the upper airway. While sleeping, the muscles tone relaxes and the tongue drops back what plugs the already constricted airway. Having tried to take a breath unavailingly, patients wake up whereby sleep can be interrupted many times a night. The consequences are sleepiness during the day together with decreased performance and increased accident risk due to microsleep. Apart from that, obstructive sleep apnea may cause other serious health problems.
The obstruction of the pharynx by the tongue dropping back is one of the main causes of obstructive sleep apnea. The classic treatment is the so called cPAP-therapy (continuous positive airway pressure) in which a face mask is attached to a respirator while sleeping. For mild to medium severe cases, dental medicine offers protrusion appliances. These are removable appliances which are worn in the mouth at night. By that, the lower jaw advances by 5-8 mm which in turn advances the tongue. The advancement leads to an enlargement of the pharynx by which an obstruction of the airways is prevented.