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Dental Appliances For Sleep Apnea: Are They Worth It?

man struggling with sleep apnea

Are you continually waking up due to loud snoring, gasping, and choking? Are you experiencing constant tiredness, headaches, and a sore throat? These might be symptoms of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder that disrupts breathing during sleep. One common treatment for this issue is using dental appliances for sleep apnea. 

Are they worth it, though? Let’s find out.

What Dental and Oral Appliances Can Be Used to Treat Sleep Apnea?

Addressing sleep apnea begins with understanding some common treatment options, such as using a sleep apnea dental appliance. These mouthguard-like devices can be customized and fitted by a professional dentist. 

Here’s a look at some common devices and their features:

  • Mandibular Advancement Device: This widely-used oral appliance pushes the lower jaw forward, keeping the upper airway open and promoting unobstructed breathing. The device can be fitted by a qualified dentist and adjusted according to your comfort.
  • Oral Appliance Therapy: As one of the treatment options for sleep apnea, this therapy involves wearing a device in your mouth during sleep. It can help reduce symptoms like loud snoring and improve sleep quality.
  • Positive Airway Pressure Devices: Worn over the nose or mouth during sleep, these devices supply continuous or bi-level positive air pressure to guard against obstructions in the upper airway. However, some users may find them uncomfortable and switch to oral devices.

Note: Oral appliances can significantly improve sleep patterns and reduce sleep apnea symptoms, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. The best oral appliance for sleep apnea varies from person to person, depending on the severity of their condition and comfort preferences. 

How Does a Dental or Oral Appliance Work for Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep apnea oral appliances, such as the Mandibular Advancement Device, function by modifying the position of your jaw and tongue. This modification restrains the soft tissues in your throat from collapsing and bolting your airway while you sleep. 

Here’s how these appliances work to improve your sleep quality:

  • Change Jaw Position: The key function of a sleep apnea dental device is to move your mandible, or lower jaw, forward. This forward movement prevents the tongue from falling back towards the throat, which can obstruct the airflow.
  • Stabilize the Tongue: Some dental devices feature a compartment that fits around the tongue, using the concept of suction to limit the movement of the tongue to avoid throat blockage during sleep.
  • Improve Airway Flow: These appliances enlarge the upper airway and enhance airflow during sleep by keeping the jaw and tongue in the correct position. 
  • Reduction in Snoring: Reducing the collapse of the soft tissue in the throat can significantly decrease loud snoring, which is often associated with sleep apnea.

Are Oral Appliances a Viable Solution for Sleep Apnea?

Oral appliances are one of the treatment options available for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Sleep medicine specialists typically recommend these dental devices when Positive Airway Pressure therapy is unsuccessful or for those who struggle to tolerate PAP. 

However, whether an oral appliance will be effective can depend on several factors:

  • Severity of Sleep Apnea: The effectiveness of an oral appliance can depend on the severity of the individual’s obstructive sleep apnea. For people with moderate sleep apnea, these devices have shown effectiveness in improving sleep quality by reducing the frequency and loudness of snoring.
  • Type of Appliance: There are various types of sleep apnea oral devices on the market. The most commonly used is the Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD). This resembles a mouth guard and works by moving the lower jaw forward to keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Customization: Oral appliances customized by a qualified dentist using a detailed mold of an individual’s teeth and jaw tend to be more effective than generic, over-the-counter versions. 
  • Continuous Usage: Consistency is key with other treatments for obstructive sleep apnea. The device must be worn every night to be effective.
  • Regular Check-Ups: Regular dental checkups are necessary to adjust the appliance’s fit and minimize potential adverse effects such as the dry mouth or tooth shifting.

Do Oral Appliances Prove Effective for Sleep Apnea Treatment?

Oral or dental appliances have been increasingly recognized as a beneficial treatment option for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, like any therapy, oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea has advantages and pitfalls. 

So, is an oral appliance the right choice for your sleep apnea treatment?

Pros of Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea:

  • Comfortable and Easy to Wear: Many users frequently share positive sleep apnea oral appliance reviews due to the device’s high comfort level. Mandibular Advancement Devices, a common type of oral device, function similarly to mouthguards and are often customized by a qualified dentist for optimal comfort.
  • Ease of Maintenance: These appliances are easy to care for, requiring standard processes like cleaning to maintain their effectiveness.
  • Portable: Unlike Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices, which may be more cumbersome, oral appliances are compact and convenient to carry during travel, ensuring you don’t compromise your sleep quality on the go.
  • Potential Reduction in Sleep Apnea Symptoms: Oral appliances are designed to shift and support the jaw during sleep to keep the upper airway open. This can lead to a decrease in symptoms like loud snoring and interrupted breathing during sleep.
  • Improve Cardiovascular Health: Oral appliances can help mitigate sleep-disordered breathing and indirectly reduce the risk of associated cardiovascular diseases.

Cons of Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea:

  • Potentially High Cost: The dental device for sleep apnea cost can be significant, depending on the specific type and brand of the appliance. However, several dental professionals may offer these devices at more affordable rates, making the overall outlay for obtaining a dental device for sleep apnea more manageable.
  • Regular Dental Check-Ups: Using an oral appliance for sleep apnea treatment necessitates regular visits to a dentist or sleep apnea specialist. Generally, every six months, these check-ups ensure the device fits well and functions correctly.
  • Possible Adverse Effects: Users may experience a few undesirable effects like dry mouth, teeth discomfort, and jaw joint symptoms.
  • Not Suitable for Severe Sleep Apnea: Some types of sleep apnea, specifically severe cases, may not respond effectively to oral appliance therapy. Other treatment options, like PAP therapy, may be beneficial in such situations.
  • Potential for Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Changes: Some studies suggest that prolonged use of an oral appliance may lead to slight changes in blood pressure and heart rate, although more research is needed to verify this.

Whether an oral appliance is the best treatment for your sleep apnea often requires consultation with sleep medicine specialists or sleep physicians. These professionals can guide you based on your specific symptoms, the severity of your disorder, and your comfort with the device.

Contact Healthy Sleep Midwest for Sleep Apnea Treatment

Having weighed the benefits and downsides of dental appliances for sleep apnea, it is clear that while they may not be a miracle cure, they can play a critical role in managing sleep apnea symptoms. Coupled with lifestyle changes, these appliances can help many achieve restful sleep. Remember, living with sleep apnea is not just about managing your symptoms; it’s about enhancing your quality of life.

If you’re ready to take control of your sleep apnea symptoms and are interested in exploring if a dental appliance for sleep apnea is right for you, contact us today to schedule an appointment with our team. Let us help you address your sleep apnea, for when one hour of sleep is a journey to well-being, let’s make every hour count.