At Shenandoah Family Dentistry we’re well aware of the over 80 oral devices that are available for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and snoring today. Most of these fall into the category of “mandibular (lower jaw) repositioning dental appliances,” while the remainder is “tongue retaining appliances.” In actuality, both types of appliances work to prevent your tongue from falling backward and blocking your airway while you’re asleep. This is done by their double-retainer-like appearance, which fits comfortably into your mouth.
How Oral Appliances Treat OSA
The most commonly prescribed therapy for OSA is CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) therapy, but this doesn’t work for all patients. There are some who can’t tolerate it due to discomfort. For these patients, oral appliances fitted by their dentist is often a great alternative. While many different designs are available here, they all work to keep your airway open while you sleep, so it doesn’t collapse and block your normal air flow, causing you to stop breathing. According to studies conducted by the European Respiratory Journal and other researchers, these dental appliances are an effective form of therapy that’s been shown to significantly improve patients’ sleep apnea. Other research has also been done that confirms this, but still highly recommends the use of CPAP therapy as being the best form of treatment for OSA, however, patients need to comply with this therapy for it to work well for them.
When you’re fitted with an oral appliance for your OSA (either a mandibular advancing device or a tongue retaining device), it’ll either hold your airway open by bringing your jaw slightly forward or prevent your tongue from falling backward while you’re asleep (what’s responsible for causing airway obstruction). Some appliances do both jobs.
Benefits of Using Oral Appliance Therapy for Treating OSA
Oral appliance therapy for OSA works effectively for people who travel or go camping a lot. This is also a good option in combination with PAP therapy, especially for anyone who needs very high pressures for CPAP therapy to be effective. In these cases, you may wear an oral appliance with your PAP therapy to keep your jaw from falling backward while you’re asleep, closing off your airway. As such, you won’t need the CPAP pressure to be as high, and you may find yourself feeling much more comfortable.
The Effectiveness of Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea
These appliances are most effective in treating mild to moderate sleep apnea. However, they can also be used to treat patients whose OSA can’t be treated any other way or who don’t tolerate positive airway pressure therapy. While some countries see the benefit of selling these devices over the counter, in the U.S. you’ll need to have us prescribe one for you. So, if you have OSA and you’re ready to regain your life from its grips, give Shenandoah Family Dentistry a call at (540) 667-8731. We’ll work with you and your insurance (most cover these appliances, including both Medicare and Medicaid) to help you sleep better soon.