CPAP involves strapping a mask to your face to force air into your throat and lungs. Although it can be a very effective treatment for sleep apnea, this CPAP mask can cause many problems, not the least of which is that the pressure of the mask and straps can compress your face, not entirely dissimilar to the effect of food binding, artificial cranial deformation or other practices that deform the body by way of physical restraint.
Although this effect has long been known to be significant in children, it’s only recently that we have detected these changes in adults.
Gauging Face Changes in Adults
The primary evidence of face changes in adults using CPAP comes from a Japanese study published in 2010. Researchers looked at 46 adults who had been using nasal CPAP for a minimum of two years. Many had been using it longer, and the average length of use was three years. They used radiographs to look at the shape of the face before they started using CPAP and then at follow-up.
Although none of the subjects reported noticing facial changes, results showed that there were many noticeable changes in the configuration of the face. The upper jaw was moved backward, and the upper incisors were turned backward. The arch of the jaw became less rounded. Even the chin moved backward.
The flattening of the face is significant not just from a cosmetic perspective, as it may lead to greater crowding and even bite problems. Worst of all, a flat face is part of the reason why we suffer sleep apnea at all.
Oral Appliances Can Change Face Shape
It should be noted that other studies have previously showed that oral appliances can lead to changes in your teeth. However, these changes can be better controlled and even used in a positive way, such as with the DNA appliance. The DNA appliance doesn’t just hold your airway open, it reshapes your airway to reduce or even eliminate sleep apnea.
If you would like to learn more about sleep apnea treatment that avoids the side effects of CPAP, please call 402-493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.