What Is CPAP?

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP solves the problem of airway collapse and/or stopped breathing by pumping air into your airway via your nose, mouth, or both. The pressure is high enough to keep your airway open and supply air to your lungs even if your body stops breathing.

The basic CPAP system consists of three components:

  • A pump
  • Tubing
  • A mask

The pump takes air and delivers it at high pressure into the tubing, which carries the air to the mask. There are many styles of masks for CPAP. Some masks deliver air through your nostrils. Others deliver it into your mouth. Some deliver it to both.

To make CPAP more comfortable, people often add accessories like heaters, humidifiers, and mask pads. In addition, there are variations on the CPAP design, like BiPAP and APAP. BiPAP is a trademarked term for bilevel positive airway pressure, which uses two different pressures to try to encourage your body to keep breathing. APAP stands for automated positive airway pressure, which tries to adjust itself to your body’s needs.

Disadvantages of CPAP

While CPAP is theoretically nearly 100% effective at treating sleep apnea when used properly, people often have a hard time using the treatment and sticking with it. About 50% of people prescribed CPAP fail to use it continuously over the long term. Minneapolis sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Bril wants to help people who can’t tolerate CPAP get a sleep apnea treatment they will use.

Most of the time, people complain because CPAP is uncomfortable, high maintenance, and expensive.

Uncomfortable

CPAP is uncomfortable for many people. It can feel uncomfortable because of the masks, straps, and hoses.

People often find that the masks feel stifling. People get a suffocating feeling from wearing their CPAP machine. This can make it hard to fall asleep, or it can lead to people awakening with nightmares. The masks can also feel uncomfortable on the skin.

Straps that hold the mask in place can also feel uncomfortable on the skin. They can lead to irritation and breakouts.

The hoses can also be uncomfortable because they restrict movement and make people feel that they are strapped down in bed.

People also report feeling bloated in the morning after using CPAP due to the air that gets pumped into their stomachs. Proper adjustment of pressure can help with this. However, for some people, if the pressure is high enough for treatment, it will cause bloating.

High Maintenance

CPAP machines are high-maintenance. Because the air pumped through a CPAP machine goes right into your lungs, it’s important to keep the machine clean. Many CPAP users find that they experience an increase in respiratory infections after starting CPAP. However, daily or weekly cleaning of the machine prevents this increase.

Cleaning a CPAP machine can be a nuisance. Components have to be taken apart, thoroughly cleaned, and thoroughly dried before assembly for use again.

In addition to regular cleaning, there are disposable components like filters that need to be changed regularly. Even relatively durable components like the mask and tubing need to be replaced often over the life of the machine.

Expensive

The high maintenance needs of CPAP translate into a high cost. A CPAP machine might not seem too expensive. However, over time, the machine needs many accessory and component replacements.

A study of fee schedules showed that over five years, CPAP has been nearly four times as expensive as oral appliance therapy. If you are paying these costs out-of-pocket, either because you don’t have insurance, your insurance doesn’t cover CPAP, or you haven’t met your deductible, CPAP is a much bigger hit to your pocketbook.

Note that even if insurance claims to cover CPAP, your insurance company might stop covering costs for CPAP and even demand that you reimburse them for CPAP costs if you aren’t hitting compliance targets.

Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliance therapy is a more comfortable, convenient, and affordable CPAP alternative. Oral appliance therapy only treats obstructive sleep apnea, in which your airway collapses during sleep. It’s recommended as a frontline treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea and an alternative treatment for people with severe sleep apnea who can’t tolerate CPAP.

Your jaw is the main, bony support for your airway. By repositioning your jaw, oral appliance therapy helps your body hold your airway open. Minneapolis sleep dentist Dr. Bril will measure your jaw to determine the precise positioning your jaw needs to keep your airway open.

An oral appliance is relatively simple. It’s one or two pieces that you put in your mouth. They fit over your teeth like a sports mouthguard or teeth whitening trays. Oral appliance therapy doesn’t eliminate sleep apnea as thoroughly as CPAP. However, people use oral appliances more regularly, which means that the health outcomes are similar.

In general, oral appliances are more comfortable to wear. There are no straps or masks. No sensation of smothering. Some people feel discomfort in the jaw related to the appliance, but this is uncommon with a professionally fitted appliance and usually passes.

Oral appliance maintenance is easy. When you take your appliance out, you can soak it in a cleaning solution. Take it out of the solution and let it dry.

Oral appliances don’t need any accessories. They are highly durable and can last for years without repair or replacement.

Get a CPAP Alternative in Minneapolis

If you have sleep apnea, it’s important to get treatment. If CPAP isn’t right for you, Minneapolis sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Bril can help you get an effective CPAP alternative.

To learn whether you’re a good candidate for oral appliance therapy, please call (952) 944-2052 or use our online form to request an appointment at Brilliant Dentistry, serving the Minneapolis area from Eden Prairie, MN.