How do Dental Devices Treat Sleep Apnea?

Do you remember having braces when you were little? Or have you ever had to wear a retainer at night? Then it will be easy for you to picture this type of sleep apnea treatment!

Dental devices are appliances that are worn in the mouth during sleep to help you breathe better. Can a simple oral piece really prevent the effects of sleep apnea?

Dental Devices to Treat Sleep Apnea

How do they work?

Sleep apnea is caused when tissue in the back of the throat, like the soft palate or the tongue, relaxes during sleep, obstructing the passage of air. The main purpose of dental devices is to keep this tissue from sagging into the windpipe. There are two main types:

  • Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD): This appliance looks a lot like an athletic mouth guard that fits over the top and bottom rows of teeth. It pushes the lower jaw forward and downward, which helps prevent blockage in the airway (see the diagram above). This is the more common treatment.
  • Tongue Retraining Device (TRD): This is a splint that holds the tongue in a forward position, preventing it from falling backward during sleep and obstructing the airway.

What are the advantages?

Some people may find that a dental device is a more comfortable, easily adjustable means of sleep apnea treatment. Dental devices can be a valid treatment plan for people with mild sleep apnea. They are also much less invasive than oral surgery, the typical method of keeping excessive throat tissue from interfering with sleep.

What are the drawbacks?

There are some other drawbacks to oral appliances. They can be pricey and cause dryness or discomfort at night. Also, long-term use could alter the positioning of the teeth.

Ultimately, dental devices are not as effective as CPAP treatment. CPAP, the most common form of treatment, completely alleviates the symptoms of sleep apnea and can reverse the negative health effects of the sleep disorder. We recommend using a CPAP machine as a means of curing your symptoms and only using a dental device if you absolutely cannot commit to the necessary compliance. Sometimes, an oral device paired with a nasal CPAP machine is an effective combination to keep your airway completely clear.

If you have sleep apnea, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Take our sleepiness quiz and share the results with your doctor.

Sleepiness Quiz

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Photo Credit: Resmed

Comments

  1. Jerome Ngugi Reply

    Interesting.
    I think we are all so different and as such, one might be more comfortable using a CPAP machine while another using an oral device.
    I’m wondering, are there mouthpieces that compliment a CPAP for better therapy?
    Thanks for the read.

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