High Blood Pressure + Sleep Apnea? Oral Appliance Therapy May Be Better than CPAP for You, New Research Shows

If you have obstructive sleep apnea – or a partner with OSA – you’re certainly familiar with the loud snoring and disrupted sleep patterns that come with the condition. You’re also likely aware that OSA is more than just an annoyance but a literally life-threatening condition.

Apnea deprives the brain of oxygen. Oxygen is life. Go just one minute without it, and brain cells start to die. Unsurprisingly, people with apnea have roughly double the risk of sudden death.

But fewer people know of the other far-reaching impacts OSA can have on your overall health and well-being.

Sleep apnea can contribute to a wide variety of systemic health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders. Recent research has linked OSA with a higher risk of cognitive and memory problems, liver issues, complications during pregnancy, and even certain cancers.

The repeated awakenings and low oxygen levels caused by sleep apnea can have a domino effect on various bodily symptoms and functions. This is why treatment is so crucial. By addressing the apnea itself, it can mean improvement in other areas of health, as well.

That brings us to a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which not only evaluated OSA treatment’s impact on blood pressure as a measure of heart health; it also compared CPAP to the kinds of oral appliances that we use here in our office to help patients who aren’t able to tolerate CPAP or just want an effective alternative with better portability.

Researchers recruited 321 patients over the age of 40 who had hypertension (high blood pressure) and increased cardiovascular risk. After sleep tests were performed, 220 patients with moderate to severe OSA were split evenly between two groups. One was assigned CPAP; the other, oral appliance therapy using a mandibular advancement device (MAD). This is an appliance that holds the lower jaw in a slightly forward position to keep the airway open and clear.

The main result that the researchers were looking for was the change in the average blood pressure over 24 hours, comparing the blood pressure at the start of the study (baseline) to the blood pressure after 6 months.

As Dr. Bicuspid reported,

At six months, MAD showed a significant decrease in 24-hour mean arterial blood pressure by 2.5 mmHg, while the CPAP group showed no change. MAD also outperformed CPAP in all secondary ambulatory blood pressure parameters, especially in blood pressure during sleep. Both treatments improved daytime sleepiness similarly, with no differences in cardiovascular biomarkers, according to the results.

In other words, oral appliance therapy may be the more effective option here, even in cases of severe sleep apnea, and able to help improve at least one measure of heart health.

Curious as to whether it might be a good option for you? Contact us to schedule a consultation now!

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