Dr. Vandervelden | Sleep Apnea Treatment | Zeeland, MI

Common Questions

About Sleep Apnea

If I snore, do I have sleep apnea?

Snoring frequently accompanies sleep apnea but it is not always an indicator of whether this sleep condition is present. However, snoring can indicate that bulky throat tissue could potentially obstruct airways – especially if patients have certain lifestyle factors that contribute to sleep apnea. Fortunately, the treatment we offer for sleep apnea and snoring is the same. By prescribing a custom oral appliance, the diameter of the airway can be widened to prevent the sounds of snoring as well as episodes of apnea. These oral appliances are soft and comfortable to wear. They work by positioning the lower jaw slightly forward so that the airway is no longer obstructed.

Is it possible that I have sleep apnea even if I don't snore?

Anyone of any age can have sleep apnea. Even though snoring can accompany sleep apnea, it is not always a symptom of this sleep disorder. For this reason, Dr. Vandervelden at West Michigan CPAP Alternatives will set up a sleep consultation for you with a board-certified sleep physician using telehealth. The board-certified sleep physician may recommend an at-home sleep study in the comfort of your own bed. Our at-home sleep tests are accurate, convenient, and cost-effective. If we find that sleep apnea is present or that snoring is obstructing one’s quality of life, we will provide treatment recommendations.

What causes sleep apnea?

The exact cause of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is different for each person. Anyone can develop it, regardless of age or gender. The most common risk factors include:

  • Being over age 40
  • Having a large neck (over 17 inches in men, 16 inches for women)
  • Being overweight – approximately half of OSA sufferers are overweight
  • Being male – more men than women suffer from OSA
  • Having a large tongue or small jaw
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids (particularly in children)
  • Using alcohol or sedatives which relax the muscles in the airway
  • Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum or sinus and allergy problems
What is the difference between a CPAP and an oral appliance?

While CPAP is very effective in treating sleep apnea, many people cannot tolerate the discomfort of the mask and the inconvenience and noise of the machine. Therefore, a high percentage of users have difficulty or will not wear them.

An oral appliance is a popular alternative to the CPAP. This device is small, portable, fits more comfortably, and in many cases works just as well as CPAP.

How do you confirm the effectiveness of the oral appliance?

You will have a follow-up sleep study at home in the comfort of your own bed while using your oral appliance to confirm the effectiveness of the device. Our at-home sleep tests are accurate, convenient, and cost-effective. Dr. Vandervelden at West Michigan CPAP Alternatives will coordinate a consultation with a board-certified sleep physician using telehealth to interpret the results and determine if this therapy is effective.

Does insurance cover sleep apnea treatment?

Because insurance plans vary widely, our experienced team will work with you to see if your insurance company will cover the oral appliance. If for any reason it is not covered, we will let you know and work with you to develop a financial plan if needed.

If coverage is available for oral appliances, it will come from your medical insurance carrier. The cost of untreated sleep apnea, in the long run, is high. Left untreated, sleep apnea contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive disorders including dementia, mood disorders, and increases your risk of having a stroke. Studies show untreated sleep apnea can shorten your life expectancy by up to 10 years and results on average in double the number of doctor’s office visits. This often costs patients thousands of dollars every year in medical bills. Our patients tell us it is well worth the investment of their time and money to treat their sleep apnea because of the improved quality of life they experience.

What if I don’t have insurance?

We offer financing options and will work with you to find a solution that fits your needs.

How long will it take to get used to my custom oral appliance? Will it hurt my teeth?

The majority of patients will adapt to their custom oral appliance in less than a month. It will take some time to get used to having a device in your mouth while you sleep. There is often some mild discomfort initially, but this goes away after a few weeks of wearing the appliance. Patients tell us that getting used to an oral appliance was much easier than getting used to a CPAP.

How often will the appliance need to be replaced?

Unlike cheap oral appliances that you can order online, a custom oral appliance is made from hard acrylic, which is very durable. They are typically replaced about every 5 years depending on wear and tear. If you grind your teeth, you may have a more frequent rate of repair or replacement. Studies have shown that the overall costs of CPAP therapy vs. custom oral appliance therapy are the same since CPAP therapy requires continually replacing tubing, filters, masks, and other supplies.

Will the appliance change my bite?

Your teeth may shift slightly with long term use of a custom oral appliance and may result in minor bite changes. Typically, this is not worrisome and does not cause problems or discomfort. Under Dr. Vandervelden’s expert care, the risk of bite changes is minimized. This is also minimized with the use of a custom morning re-positioning device which Dr. Vandervelden includes with your custom oral appliance.

Are there any side effects of the appliance?

The most common side effect is mild morning muscle soreness that usually goes away after a short time. Some patients may experience either dry mouth or excessive salivation. As mentioned above, minor tooth movement occurs in some patients, but is minimized under Dr. Vandervelden’s expert care.

Will an oral appliance cause damage to the jaw joint and muscles?

In most cases, a custom oral appliance that is expertly made by Dr. Vandervelden will not damage but instead improve the health of your jaw joint and muscles. Many of our patients experience an improvement in jaw joint and muscle soreness after wearing an oral appliance long term. This is possible in part due to Dr. Vandervelden’s expertise in positioning the jaw in right position that is both therapeutic and natural. When the jaw is positioned correctly by an expert like Dr. Vandervelden, the jaw joint is stabilized and in a more protected position. In short, the jaw joint and muscles are often happier in this protected position and therefore do not cause damage to the joint but instead provides a benefit. This is another problem with the cheap oral appliances that you can buy online. Incorrect jaw positions often occur with these “do it yourself” devices and can cause permanent damage and discomfort to the jaw joints and muscles.

How long will I have to use the oral appliance?

Obstructive sleep apnea in unlikely to decrease with age; therefore your oral appliance will probably be a lifelong therapy. However, certain wellness factors such as significant weight loss may improve your symptoms.

Can’t I just order an oral appliance online?

While there are oral appliances you can order on the internet, keep in mind when not fitted or positioned properly by an expert like Dr. Vandervelden, permanent tooth damage and chronic jaw pain can result. If you order a device online, you are missing out on essential components of Dr. Vandervelden’s custom oral appliance therapy such as:

  • Protecting against chronic jaw pain and major bite changes
  • Preventing dental damage by making a custom fit oral appliance
  • Under Dr. Vandervelden’s care, you will meet with a board-certified sleep physician using telehealth to ensure all your sleep needs are met
  • Pre and post home sleep testing to verify that oral appliance is effectively treating sleep apnea or snoring
  • As many appointments as necessary with Dr. Vandervelden to calibrate your device
    for your unique needs to achieve the most therapeutic benefit
  • Superior durability
  • Long term care and maintenance