If you have been diagnosed with OSA or obstructive sleep apnea, you have either used or heard about Continuous Positive Airway Pressure aka CPAP. The CPAP machine emits continuous air pressure which can be very difficult to use. Patients feel uncomfortable keeping the mask on for a long time. And the noise also doesn’t help. Some patients opt-out of this arrangement because of the discomforts. As a result, users don’t get advantages out of the CPAP and their snoring persists. Hence, they are at risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiac attack. If you are feeling the same about CPAP, there is a better alternative for you and that is oral appliance therapy.
What does oral appliance therapy mean?
Oral appliance therapy is a treatment used for patients with sleep apnea. The procedure doesn’t need surgery so no fear of going under the knife. The therapy is suited for patients whose tongue touches their airways while sleeping, making it difficult to breathe. The oral appliance prevents the airway from collapsing by either holding the tongue or by moving the jaw forward. Oral appliances can be custom made which makes it easier for the patients to wear and use them.
Types of oral appliances
Two types of devices are used for patients of sleep apnea. And these provided a much better result amongst the sufferers.
1. Mandibular advancement device (MAD)
MAD is the most commonly used mouth device for sleep apnea sufferers. It looks like a mouth guard worn in sports. The devices have a clasp over the upper and lower dental arches with metal hinges attached to them. The hinges help the lower jaw to move forward.
2. Tongue Retaining device
Tongue retaining device puts the tongue forward using a suction bulb. When the tongue is in a forward position, the device prevents the tongue from collapsing during sleep and prevents the airways from being blocked. This type of device is less commonly used.
Benefits of oral appliance therapy
The therapy is well suited for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea, especially those who sleep on their backs or stomachs. Using the device will help with better sleeping and reduce the frequency of snoring. These devices are small compared to the CPAP so it’s more likely that the patients will use them regularly.
Here are some more benefits.
- The appliances are easy to wear
- Highly effective in improving sleep and reducing sleep apnea
- No surgery needed
- Portable, thus easy to carry
- Easy on people with claustrophobia
- Makes no noise
Drawbacks of oral appliance therapy
Compared to Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (a process of removing soft tissues from the back of the throat to treat patients with sleep apnea), the therapy has shown the best results for sleep apnea and snoring. However, there are some shortcomings to the therapy such as:
- Altered bite and awkward movement of teeth
- Can cause pain
- Arthritis of the temporal mandibular joint
- Excessive secretion of saliva
- Dry mouth and lips
Ordering oral devices for apnea patients
Consulting a doctor will be the first thing to do. If you and your doctor both agree for the therapy, the next thing you need to do is paying a visit to a dentist for an evaluation test. If the dentist approves of the treatment he will go ahead and design a model of your teeth. You will be called to give a trial so make sure to let your dentist know it fits you properly. You will also be given a morning repositioner to realign your bite once the appliance is removed. Your dentist will give you all the information and instruction for using the device. It’s recommended to wear the device during sleep to see if it works for you or not.