Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnea
People with sleep apnea literally stop breathing in their sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (the most common form) is caused by a blockage of the airway that occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes.
Oral appliance therapy is most effective in treating mild cases of sleep apnea, as well as cases of heavy snoring. One positive side effect of oral appliance therapy is that it may also help treat teeth grinding (bruxism) and reduce the symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD).
The oral appliance looks a lot like an orthodontic retainer or mouthguard and is worn while you sleep. These dental appliances are designed to prevent the soft tissues of the throat from collapsing and obstructing the airway. There are two main types:
Mandibular Advancement Devices -- These fit snugly over the upper and lower teeth, holding the lower jaw slightly forward.
Tongue-Retaining Devices -- These are made of a pliable material with a compartment that fits around the tongue to hold it forward. They are usually recommended for people with few or no teeth.
People who use an oral appliance for sleep apnea may experience excessive salivation, morning soreness in the teeth or jaw muscles and tooth movements. These side effects tend to get better with time and will also improve with adjustments to the device by your dentist.
Wearing It Well
Once the oral appliance has been made, your dentist will show you how to put it in and remove it correctly. Your dentist will also provide you with dental care tips, including cleaning and safe storage tips.
Retainer therapy works best when you follow your dentist's directions and wear the dental appliance exactly as instructed. Visit your dentist regularly to make sure your oral appliance fits comfortably and is doing its job. If you need help finding a dentist in your area, call us at 1-866-970-9853.