Oral Appliances are placed in the mouth and are worn much like an orthodontic appliance or sports mouth protector. They are worn during sleep to prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat so that the airway stays open during sleep. Oral appliances can be used alone or in conjunction with other means of therapy such as continuous positive air pressure (CPAP). Determination of proper therapy can only be made by joint consultation of your dentist and sleep physician. Using Oral Appliances as treatment for sleep apnea has been proven to be just as effective as CPAP in mild and moderate cases. Severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea should still seek the gold standard for treatment - CPAP.
Types of Oral Appliances
Currently, over 40 different types of oral appliance are available to specially trained dentists to treat sleep disordered breathing. At first glance, this number appears overwhelming but on close examination each of the appliances falls basically into one of two categories and the diverse variety is simply a variation of a few major themes. Oral appliances can be classified by mode of action or design variation.
Mandibular Repositioning Appliances
Mandibular repositioning appliances are by far the most numerous type on the market. They all function to reposition and maintain the lower jaw (mandible) in a protruded position during sleep. It is felt that this serves to open the airway by indirectly pulling the tongue forward since the tongue is attached to the lower jaw, by stimulating activity of the muscles in the tongue and making it more rigid, and by holding the lower jaw and other structures in a stable position to prevent opening of the mouth.
An example of a mandibular repositioning appliance is shown at the images on the left. A hard plastic is placed over the upper and lower teeth and a device is incorporated that will pull the lower jaw forward as necessary to open the airway.
The Oral Appliance Setup Process
If you are interested in learning how an oral appliance can correct your obstructive sleep apnea, we can refer you to a specially trained dentist to review your case. Upon verification that oral appliance therapy will treat your OSA, an impression is taken of your teeth and sent to a dental lab for construction of an appliance. Once the appliance has returned from the dental lab, the dentist will work with you on titrating (adjusting) the opening for the airway. Many times insurance will reimburse most of the cost for the oral appliance as this therapy has become more readily accepted as a form of treatment. If you are interested in learning more about and oral appliance, please call us at 877-427-0870.