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What You Need to Know about Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea Treatment?

Experts explain how important it is to find good sleep apnea treatments. Oral appliances are one among a few such available treatments, especially for those who struggle with CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines. In this article, we will understand a bit about oral appliances and their role in sleep apnea, the different types of these appliances, how this oral appliance therapy works for sleep apnea, who it is for, and various benefits and drawbacks of these appliances.

Understanding Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea Treatment

What are Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea Treatment? 

Oral appliances for sleep apnea treatment are devices that you put in your mouth while you sleep. They help keep your airway open, which is important because, in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your upper airway can get blocked when you sleep. This blockage reduces airflow, which can make your brain wake you up so you can breathe. This cycle of waking up and falling back asleep can happen many times during the night, stopping you from getting good sleep and enough oxygen to your vital organs.

If left untreated, OSA can cause serious health problems and even be life-threatening. Oral appliances, also known as oral appliance therapy, are used to treat OSA. They keep your mouth in a position that ensures you get enough airflow, helping you breathe better and reducing how often OSA wakes you up.

Types of Oral Appliances For Sleep Apnea Treatment

There are two main types of oral appliances used for sleep apnea treatment:

Mandibular Advancement Devices – MADs

Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) are the most common type of oral appliance used in obstructive sleep apnea treatment (OSA). They are also known by different names like mandibular advancement splints, mandibular advancement appliances, or mandibular repositioning appliances.

MADs work by moving your lower jaw (mandible) forward, which also brings your tongue forward. This action creates more space for airflow in the back of your throat, making it easier to breathe while you sleep. MADs fit over your teeth and usually come in two parts—one for your top teeth and one for your bottom. They’re connected by screws, hinges, or rubber bands that allow you to adjust the lower part of the device to move your jaw forward. Some MADs have interchangeable arches that can be used independently.

MADs vary in terms of:

  • Size
  • The materials they are made of (how firm or soft they are)
  • How the top and bottom pieces connect (in two-piece models)
  • How much your teeth touch when you close your mouth
  • How far the device moves your jaw

Tongue-Stabilizing Devices – TSDs

Tongue-stabilizing devices (TSDs), also known as tongue-retaining devices, are another type of oral appliance used in obstructive sleep apnea treatment (OSA). Unlike MADs, TSDs work by pulling your tongue forward with suction. A suction bulb on the device keeps your tongue in place while you sleep, with the tip of the device staying outside your mouth. Similar to MADs, TSDs help open your airway by moving the base of your tongue forward.

TSDs are not as popular as MADs. However, TSDs can be an alternative for people with OSA who can’t use MADs. But who can’t use MADs and why? For instance, individuals with weak teeth that can’t hold a MAD in place may find TSDs more suitable. These devices are also available over the counter.

When selecting the right appliance, it’s essential to opt for custom-made ones that fit your mouth perfectly. These custom appliances typically provide better results compared to those available without a prescription.

How Oral Appliance Therapy Works as a Sleep Apnea Treatment

To get started, simply schedule a consultation with an expert doctor. During this appointment, he will address any questions you have and conduct a thorough examination of your mouth and teeth. Using advanced technology, he will create a digital scan of your teeth, which will be sent to a lab to craft your custom appliance.

Once your appliance is ready, you’ll give it a try. It’s small and fits snugly in your mouth, providing comfort as you sleep. By holding your lower jaw forward, it ensures your airway stays open throughout the night. This forward movement also prevents your tongue from blocking your air passage. Compared to a CPAP machine, it’s a much simpler solution to manage!

Who Benefits from Oral Appliances?

For those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who struggle with using a CPAP machine, oral appliances offer a helpful alternative. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines involve wearing a mask connected to a tube that delivers pressurized air to keep your airways open while you sleep. While CPAP is the most effective sleep apnea treatment, some find it difficult to use consistently.

That’s where oral appliance therapy comes in. CPAP machines are quite potent but these two appliances aren’t. Yet, these can still ease symptoms for many. Some even use both methods: CPAP at home and an oral appliance when traveling or to reduce reliance on the machine’s pressurized air. It’s all about finding what works best for you!

Who Shouldn’t Use An Oral Appliance For Sleep Apnea Treatment?

Oral appliances aren’t for everyone. There are certain conditions which may prevent you from opting for a sleep apnea treatment using these oral appliances only. These include:

  • People with central sleep apnea: Central sleep apnea occurs when there are signaling problems in your brain that cause breathing pauses. Oral appliances can’t treat this type of apnea.
  • Children: Children often need different treatment than adults whatever health problem it might be. Children with breathing issues also need different treatments than adults, including sleep apnea treatment. We suggest you consult our expert doctors before concluding you can’t use these appliances for your child. You can use it if an expert healthcare provider recommends it.
  • People with severe OSA: Attempting to manage severe OSA with only an oral appliance can be dangerous. Consult and follow our expert guidance on when it’s safe to use an oral appliance and when it isn’t.

Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral appliances have many benefits, including:

  • Better sleep
  • Less snoring
  • Easy to wear
  • Non-invasive (no surgery needed)
  • Portable
  • Comfortable for people who feel claustrophobic
  • Affordable
  • Quiet (they don’t make noise)

Drawbacks of Oral Appliance Therapy 

Apart from benefits, there are some drawbacks of these oral appliances as well, such as:

  • Changes in your bite or how your teeth move
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Issues with your jaw joint
  • More saliva or dry mouth

Despite these drawbacks, oral appliances are still a great way for sleep apnea treatment and snoring. It’s important to talk to our dentists to make sure you get the right fit and the best results. You may discuss the drawbacks as well with your doctor for a better understanding so that you can decide whether you can opt for these oral appliance therapies for sleep apnea treatment or not.

Oral appliances are a helpful way not only for sleep apnea treatment but also to improve sleep quality and overall health. If you’re interested in trying them, we can help you find a dentist. Contact us today to learn more and start sleeping better!

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