Dental Health Info Article


CPAP machines are used to treat sleep apnea.

If you've landed here, it's possible that you or someone you know is looking for a sleep apnea cure. You're not alone! Millions suffer from this problem, specifically from obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea.

Well, you have a good reason to look into CPAP treatment. Sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep -- sometimes hundreds of times in one night! It not only results in poor quality sleep, but sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, decreased memory, weight gain, headaches and cardiovascular disease. Daytime grogginess can impair you at work or while driving -- a scary thought for most!

How CPAP Machines Work

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, a device that keeps your wind tunnel from collapsing during sleep. The CPAP machine works by increasing air pressure in your throat to keep your airway open throughout the night. While CPAP is the most common -- and effective -- nonsurgical treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, it is also used to treat central sleep apnea and sleep apnea in children. CPAP machines are also commonly used to treat patients who suffer from sleep apnea combined with coronary artery disease.

Wearing a CPAP mask may sound cumbersome, but is often necessary for sleep apnea sufferers to establish a normal sleep pattern. This decreases daytime sleepiness, making you more alert and possibly improving job productivity, concentration and memory. CPAP treatment can decrease the possibility of heart failure in those who suffer from coronary artery disease. Ongoing use of CPAP has also been known to lower blood pressure and decrease anxiety and depression.

While CPAP is used to treat moderate to severe sleep apnea, it may not be as effective for those who suffer from mild sleep apnea.

Choosing a CPAP Machine

Sleep apnea machines are only available by prescription. A sleep study is usually needed to determine whether you have sleep apnea and what type of treatment is best for you. CPAP machines are often lightweight (about 5 lbs.) and usually small enough to fit on a bedside table. The standard CPAP includes a machine, tube and mask. The machine delivers a steady stream of pressurized air into the mask via the tube. This pressure can be adjusted according to patient need.

The fit of your CPAP mask fit is critical -- it must create a seal between the mask and face or CPAP will not be effective. Many CPAP masks are now cushioned for a more comfortable fit.

There are three types of CPAP masks to choose from:

  • Mask that covers the nose and mouth (the most common type of CPAP mask)
  • Mask that covers just the nose, known as nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCPAP)
  • Nasal prongs that fit into the nostrils

There are several types of CPAP machines on the market, each designed to fit individual needs. For instance, you may choose a CPAP machine that automatically adjusts to higher altitudes, comes with an attached humidifier or includes a case for travel. There are CPAP machines designed to increase air pressure over time to help you get used to your new sleeping situation. Some high-tech machines can sense your pressure needs and adjust accordingly, while others record your sleep cycle to determine whether apneas have occurred. Data can be downloaded and sent to your doctor to help determine how often you use the machine or whether the treatment is working for you.

CPAP Side Effects

Sleeping with a CPAP mask may take some getting used to -- some patients find wearing the mask uncomfortable. It is common to experience mild discomfort in the first few nights of use. Common complaints include CPAP masks that leak air, meaning the mask is not properly sealed and may need to be replaced or refitted.

  • Other possible side effects may include:
  • Nightmares
  • Dry nose (nosebleeds are a rare side effect)
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion, including a runny nose or sneezing
  • Eye or skin irritation
  • Stomach pain or bloating
  • Chest discomfort
  • If you have difficulty adjusting

to your CPAP, talk to your doctor. Your CPAP mask or machine may need to be adjusted. Using a humidifier or nasal spray can help with congestion. If problems persist, you may need to try a different type of sleep apnea treatment.

It's important to note that CPAP corrects sleep apnea but does not cure it. The CPAP mask must be worn every night for the entire length of the sleep cycle in order to remain effective.

Purchasing Your CPAP Machine

CPAP machines can be bought, rented or part of a rent-to-own plan. It's recommended that you rent one before buying to make sure it's the right CPAP machine for you. Insurance may cover part or all of the cost, depending on the type of machine you use. Check with your insurance provider first before purchasing your CPAP to determine your coverage.

If you think sleep apnea may be causing your daytime drowsiness, get help. A dentist can diagnose sleep apnea and steer you in the right direction for sleep apnea treatment.