Oral Appliance Treatment For Sleep Apnea

If you have sleep apnea, then your breathing periodically stops when your sleep. These breathing cessation episodes typically last only a couple of seconds, but sleep apnea can raise your risk for various health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. While continuous positive airway pressure machines, also called CPAP machines, can help restore effective patterns of breathing during sleep, many people are unable to tolerate them because the CPAP masks can be uncomfortable. Here are some ways dental appliances can help restore proper breathing patterns in people with apnea who are seeking CPAP alternatives.

Mandibular Advancement Devices

A mandibular advancement device, also known as MAD, is one of the most common oral appliances used in the treatment of apnea. MADs are custom-made and they look like sports mouthguards. When you are wearing your MAD device, your jaw will be repositioned so that it is thrust slightly forward.

When your jaw is in a more forward position, it helps keep the back of your tongue from relaxing into your airway, causing an obstruction. This will open up the back of your throat and allow more air to get into your lungs while you breathe. MAD devices are adjustable, and if you need to have the shape or size of the device altered, you can simply make an appointment with your dentist. Compliance is thought to be higher with MADs than with CPAP machines because they are less intrusive and more comfortable to wear.

Tongue Retaining Devices 

Tongue-retaining devices, also called TRDs, are also commonly recommended to treat sleep apnea. Unlike MADs that reposition your lower jaw into a more forward position, a tongue-retaining device gently holds your tongue in place so that it stays in a forward position. This also helps minimize the risk of it slipping back into your pharynx and obstructing your airway. The TRD uses a small suction device that keeps your tongue in a forward position, and like a MAD, it is unobtrusive and comfortable to use. Your dentist will make sure that your tongue-retaining device fits properly and they will also show you how to insert it and take it out when you wake up. 

If you have obstructive sleep apnea and are unable to tolerate using a CPAP machine, make an appointment with your dentist to learn about oral appliances. When your sleep apnea is well-managed, the quality of your sleep will improve and you will have more energy when you wake up and may be less likely to experience daytime sleepiness.