Sleep Apnea and Oral Appliances

illustration of sleep apnea blocking airway

Sleep apnea is a common issue that affects more than 200,000 people in the United States alone. When a person suffers from sleep apnea they stop breathing in the middle of their sleep. Pauses in breathing can last anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute. This repeated interruption of sleep causes people to lose sleep and wake up feeling groggy and tired.

What is oral appliance therapy?

Oral appliance therapy relies on a custom made oral appliance that is worn during sleep to reduce or eliminate sleep apnea symptoms. It is often worn like a mouthguard and functions by keeping your jaw forward so your airway is left open.

There are over 100 oral appliance options available that have been cleared by the FDA. This means that it is important to consult with your dentist about the best option for your needs. Because sleep apnea can be a serious issue, most oral appliances are covered by your medical insurance.

What are the benefits of oral appliance therapy?

Unlike therapies like a CPAP machine, oral appliance therapy is completely non-intrusive. You don’t have to worry about lugging a large machine around with you. Oral appliances are easy to wear, comfortable, lightweight, carry well, and are easy to travel with.

How does the dentist help with oral appliance therapy?

Your dentist will work closely with your physician to determine the best oral appliance for your needs. When you come into the office you’ll undergo a complete exam. The dentist will look at your teeth, gums, jaw, and even airway to evaluate what the best option for you is.

Once he has an idea of what he would like to accomplish, the dentist will take impressions of your mouth, which he will use to create the oral appliance. Upon completion of the device you’ll get a call to come back to the office and get fitted. If there are any minor changes needed the dentist will make them chairside.

We schedule follow up exams with every patient who receives an oral appliance to ensure they’re seeing the benefits of it.

Caring for an Oral Appliance

Once you get your sleep apnea under control you will find that you feel like a new person. You wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day. Your partner will likely sleep better as well. It’s important that you care for your oral appliance to maximize its efficacy and lifespan.

First and foremost, never chew on the appliance. This weakens its integrity. Additionally, rinse it with cold water each time you remove it and clean it with toothpaste once a day. This helps to reduce bacterial build up. Finally, dry it with a clean towel and store it in its container. Make sure that it is stored dry, as wet storage can warp the plastic or cause mildew buildup.