Sleep apnoea: busting the myths


  Posted by: Dental Design      20th February 2020

Sleep apnoea is a widespread cause of interrupted sleep. As you can imagine, due to the negative effects this condition can cause on physical, mental and even oral health, people have searched for a solution to this problem for years. This has resulted in the creation of various alternative therapies to treat the condition alongside trusted techniques such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and dental appliances.

But which of these actually work?

A common curse

Sleep apnoea is when the throat muscles relax during sleep, obstructing the airways and causing loud snoring, periods of being unable to breathe and, ultimately, very interrupted sleep.[i]

Although this condition is more typically experienced by those over the age of 30, people can develop it at any age. It is estimated that as many as 4 in every 100 middle aged men and 2 in every 100 middle aged women have sleep apnoea.[ii]

Sleep and health

 It’s surprising how much the amount of sleep we get each night effects our daily life. Without proper sleep our bodies cannot recharge, and this can quickly result in a number of unpleasant side effects.

Sleep and brain function are intrinsically linked. Without sleep it can be difficult to make rational decisions, learn new things or even function normally. This is because our brains use sleep time to work out how to process information gained throughout the day. If this process is interrupted, mental performance could suffer, and this can lead to headaches, mood swings and accidents when people make mistakes due to lack of concentration.[iii]

The effects of lack of sleep on physical health are also well known, and extended periods of reduced sleep can lead to the formation of potentially fatal conditions. These include higher rates of obesity, heart diseases and diabetes.[iv]

Alternative methods – do they work?

In an age of alternative medicine, it’s not uncommon for people to turn to unconventional treatments for illnesses and conditions. In the case of sleep apnoea, this is no different.

One solution that patients may have tried is the Buteyko technique. The Buteyko technique basically emphasises the importance of breathing through your nose instead of your mouth, and claims to help with sleep apnoea as well as asthma and other respiratory conditions. Those who practice the technique are told to sleep with tape over their mouths, forcing them to breathe through their nose. This is meant to stop sleep apnoea as it prevents people being able to snore.

Some establishments that offer Buteyko classes claim that this behaviour can improve sleep and the quality of life, as well as improve asthma and allergies etc. by up to 70%.[v]

However, it’s generally agreed among medical professionals that Buteyko is not an appropriate way to treat sleep apnoea, especially as the problem is caused by more than just mouth breathing. An Indonesian singer shocked the world when she recently revealed that her whole family practice the Buteyko technique, even her young children. This was widely regarded as very dangerous, as restricting a child’s airways during sleep could easily lead to suffocation should they suffer from a blocked nose or something similar.[vi]

Another alternative treatment for the condition is called Positional Therapy. In essence, this treatment centres around training people to sleep in positions which prevent sleep apnoea from occurring.[vii] Though this does work in some cases, for some patients who suffer from sleep apnoea this treatment makes no difference at all.

Dental devices to the rescue

As many alternative therapies for sleep apnoea do not fully solve the problem, the best thing to do as a dental professional is to offer your patients a mandibular repositioning device. These custom-made devices move the jaw forward, increasing the size of the upper airway and preventing it from closing.

Fabrication of these devices requires the acquisition of oral impressions, something which is made instantly easier by using a cutting-edge digital intraoral scanner such as the CS 3600 from Carestream Dental. The scanner has multiple functions tailored towards sleep medicine, including a multiple bite capture option, which aids the creation of a well-fitting, effective device.

Trust the science

Although there have been proven benefits to certain alternative therapies for sleep apnoea, none of these are as effective as having a dental device created by a professional. By investing in a reliable intraoral scanner and making sure your patients are aware of the benefits of mandibular repositioning devices, you can help improve their quality of sleep and quality of life.


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[i] Mayo Clinic. Sleep Apnea. Link: [Last accessed July 19].

[ii] Bupa. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea. Link: [Last accessed July 19].

[iii] National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. Link: [Last accessed July 19].

[iv] National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. Link: [Last accessed July 19].

[v] Butyeko Breathing Centre. Home page. Link: [Last accessed July 19].

[vi] BBC News. Buteyko: Why Indonesian Singer Andien Sleeps With Tape on her Mouth. Link: [Last accessed July 19].

[vii] AAST. 5 Alternative Sleep Apnea Treatment Options. Link: [Last accessed July 19].

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