An oral appliance can treat obstructive sleep apnea, a serious cause of snoring.
Do you snore? Snoring can warn of obstructive sleep apnea. If you have this condition, your throat muscles and tongue collapse onto the back of your throat, block your airway, and make you stop breathing repeatedly all night. Luckily, your doctor or dentist might be able to help.
One treatment for sleep apnea is a plastic oral appliance that can help keep your breathing passages open as you sleep. Another option is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This is a mask connected to a tube that gently blows pressurized air through your airway to keep your throat open as you sleep.
Which option might be right for you? First, speak with your family doctor, who can refer you to a sleep center. The center will conduct an overnight sleep study to confirm your diagnosis and its severity. Based on that study, a sleep specialist will be able to tell you if a CPAP device or an oral appliance will work best.
For an oral appliance, you will be referred to a dentist or orthodontist familiar with sleep apnea. Oral appliances often work best with people who are not obese1 and have mild to moderate sleep apnea. Oral appliances also may help patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea who refuse or cannot tolerate CPAP treatment.
If you choose to use an oral appliance, your dentist or orthodontist can customize one for you. This appliance will help keep your airways open as you sleep.
While some studies have found CPAP units are more effective, studies have also shown that some people prefer the oral devices and tend to use them more.
“Oral Appliances for Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Review.” K.A. Ferguson, M.D. et al. Sleep. February 1, 2006, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 244–62. www.aasmnet.org/Resources/PracticeParameters/Review_OralApplianceOSA.pdf Accessed 2013.
“What is Sleep Apnea.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sleepapnea/ Accessed 2013.
“Snoring and Sleep Apnea.” American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. http://www.aaoms.org/conditions-and-treatments/snoring-and-sleep-apnea/ Accessed 2013.