Sleep Apnea and Snoring Devices
Oral appliances, also called dental appliances or devices, may be an option for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends dental devices for patients with mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea who are not appropriate candidates for CPAP or who have not been helped by it. (CPAP should be used for patients with severe sleep apnea whenever possible.) Here at Almaden Dental Associates, we can fabricate several types of FDA approved devices.
Several different dental devices are available. A trained dental professional such as a dentist or orthodontist should fit these devices. Devices include:
- Mandibular advancement device (MAD). This is the most widely used dental device for sleep apnea. It is similar in appearance to a sports mouth guard. MAD forces the lower jaw forward and down slightly, which keeps the airway open.
- Tongue retraining device (TRD). This is a splint that holds the tongue in place to keep the airway as open as possible.
Patients fitted with one of these devices should have a check-up early on to see if it is working; short-term success usually predicts long-term benefits. It may need to be adjusted or replaced periodically.
What are the Benefits of an Oral Appliance for Sleep Apnea?
- Significant reduction in apneas for those with mild-to-moderate apnea, particularly if patients sleep either on their backs or stomachs. They do not work as well if patients lie on their side. The devices may also improve airflow for some patients with severe apnea.
- Improvement in sleep in many patients.
- Improvement and reduction in the frequency of snoring and loudness of snoring in most (but not all) patients.
- Higher compliance rates than with CPAP.
Dental devices have shown better long-term control of sleep apnea when compared to uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), the standard surgical treatment. There are also few complications with a dental device.
Disadvantages of a Dental Appliance
- Nighttime pain, dry lips, tooth discomfort, and excessive salivation. In general, these side effects are mild, although over the long term they cause nearly half of patients to stop using dental devices. Devices made of softer materials may produce fewer side effects.
- Permanent changes in the position of the teeth or jaw have occurred in some cases of long-term use. Patients should have regular visits with a health professional to check the devices and make adjustments.
- In a small percentage of patients, the treatment may worsen apnea.