What is Oral Appliance Therapy?
Oral appliance (OA) therapy is an alternative to CPAP for many people managing their mild to moderate sleep apnea or who have problems sleeping with a PAP device. A mandibular repositioning device (otherwise known as an oral appliance) fits in the mouth: it’s a small, plastic device similar to an orthodontic retainer or sports mouth guard. The OA holds the lower jaw forward to help keep the airway open and prevents apneas (pauses in breathing) while you sleep.
Many different oral appliances are available for the treatment of snoring and/or sleep apnea. These devices may be used alone or in conjunction with other means of treating snoring and/or sleep apnea, including weight management, surgery, or CPAP.
Custom-made OAs are proven to be more effective than over-the-counter or online-purchased OAs, which are not recommended. Several factors need to be taken into consideration when making an OA, such as teeth grinding or TMJ, and a dentist with experience in making OAs can best determine what type of OA and what level of advancement is needed. In addition, a dentist that makes oral appliances may also work with the patient’s health care provider or sleep specialist throughout the OA therapy process.
Oral appliances have gained in popularity because they are simple to use and easily transported, fitting in an oral retainer-sized container.
For mild to moderate sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy may be as effective as CPAP. By treating your sleep apnea, you can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. You will also improve your daytime alertness, concentration and mood.
I’m interested. What are the next steps?
You will first need to meet with a sleep provider to determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea. If your provider suspects OSA, you will need to have an overnight sleep study or a Home Sleep Apnea Test done. If you do have OSA, your provider will then review the appropriate treatment options for you.