Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic sleep disorder associated with snoring and pauses in breathing. Treatment is essential; doing so will eliminate daytime drowsiness, and help prevent a number of potentially serious medical complications including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.
While continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the preferred method of treatment, not everybody is able to tolerate sleeping with a mask attached to a machine that delivers bursts of air to the throat. Oral appliances are an alternative for these patients. They work by either moving the lower jaw forward to keep the airway passages open, or holding the tongue in place to prevent it from falling backward and blocking the airway.
Advantages of Oral Appliances
Oral appliances may be either fixed or adjustable, and are available in many different styles. At least 40 different patents exist. Some are custom designed to fit the individual’s mouth after impressions are made, and must be prescribed by a dentist, oral surgeon or ENT physician with sleep medicine experience. Others are considered one-size-fits-all.
There are several advantages to using oral appliances over other sleep apnea treatment methods. They are easy to use, inexpensive, and effective for treating a number of sleep disorders including snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea. They are easy to insert and remove, and tend to have higher compliance rates than CPAP. Younger patients, those with mild to moderate sleep apnea, lower BMI and smaller neck sizes are most likely to see positive results from oral appliances.