Oral appliances are an alternative approach to the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Repositioning your jaw or other tissues that contribute to the blockage of your airway can make it easier for you to breathe at night, reducing or eliminating sleep apnea. Although oral appliances are not suited for all types of sleep apnea, many people find them a better treatment option because of their comfort and ease of use.
If you are looking for an alternative to CPAP for sleep apnea treatment, please call (201) 343-4044 or email the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry.
Benefits of Oral Appliances
Oral appliances offer many benefits for the treatment of sleep apnea, including:
- Easy to use
- No hoses, masks, pumps, or straps
- Not disruptive in the bedroom
- Easy to transport
- Easy to maintain
- Covered by insurance
- Integrate well with lifestyle modifications
Unlike CPAP, which can be hard to learn how to use and adjust properly, oral appliances are very simple to use — just put them in. There are no hoses to deal with, no straps to fiddle with that can irritate the skin of the face. And unlike CPAP, you won’t be wearing a mask and hose that can be disruptive to intimacy and there is no pump unit that can take up an unfortunate amount of space on a bedside table or in a cabinet.
The oral appliance can be transported in a purse, or even a pocket. And the maintenance is very easy — just rinse daily and soak occasionally.
An important benefit of oral appliances is that they integrate well with lifestyle changes intended to improve health and reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. If you are looking to partly combat your sleep apnea with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes, an oral appliance is a simple treatment that can help you achieve your goal.
How Oral Appliances Work
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your airway loses support. Support comes from your muscles, which relax when you sleep, and your bones, which means your skull, jaw, and hyoid bone.
The most successful oral appliances take advantage of the fact that your airway is supported by your jaw. Repositioning the jaw can give better support to the tissues of the airway, reducing the risk that your airway will close at night. These oral appliances, known as mandibular advancement devices, have been proven effective and are now covered by most types of health insurance because they are no longer considered experimental.
Other types of oral appliances may work by repositioning soft tissue in the mouth or throat, such as the tongue or soft palate to avoid airway collapse. These devices are less proven, but can be quite effective in some cases.
Limitations of Oral Appliances
Oral appliances are not right for everyone, though. Oral appliances have several limitations:
- Can’t treat central or complex sleep apnea
- Not recommended as a frontline treatment for severe sleep apnea
- Can result in TMJ problems if not used properly
Because central and sleep apnea aren’t related to the shape or configuration of your airway, oral appliances can’t treat them. Oral appliances are also less effective if you have severe sleep apnea.
And because oral appliances reposition your jaw, if they are used improperly, they can result in long-term jaw problems, such as TMJ. This can be avoided if you work with a sleep dentist who integrates neuromuscular dentistry into the fitting process for your oral appliance to find an optimal position that treats your sleep apnea without causing jaw problems. There are also certain oral appliances, like the MicrO2, that have a lower chance to aggravate TMJ.
If you would like to learn more about oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea, please call (201) 343-4044 or email the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry.