Oral appliance therapy provides treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and snoring. As the name implies, this kind of therapy relies upon an appliance that you insert inside your mouth before you fall asleep. If you’ve never seen one of these devices, you can compare it to the look and feel of a sports mouth guard or retainer.

These oral appliances work either by supporting the tongue or jaw to keep airways open during sleep. Since everybody’s mouth has a unique size and structure, dentists must take measurements and custom-fit effective and comfortable appliances. Take a moment to find out which patients make good candidates for oral appliance therapy, how these appliances work, and if they can provide a good alternative to some other kinds of therapies.


Which Patients Make Good Candidates for Oral Appliance Therapy?

Oral appliance therapy can treat snoring and sleep apnea. That makes patients with the following issues potential candidates for oral appliance therapy:

  • A diagnosis of mild to moderate sleep apnea
  • A problem with troublesome snoring
  • An unwillingness or inability to undergo CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) treatment
  • An unwillingness or inability to have surgery

Note that CPAP – wearing a mask hooked up to a machine while sleeping to provide a continuous flow of air – might offer a more effective solution for people who suffer from severe sleep apnea. At the same time, people with mild issues often prefer an oral appliance because they are small, lightweight, silent, easy to maintain, and portable.


How Does Oral Appliance Therapy Work?

In short, the customized oral appliance will keep airways from collapsing. It may either accomplish this by keeping your tongue in position or by supporting your jaw in its forward position.

Depending upon your own situation, your dentist will suggest one of these two general kinds of devices:

  • Mandibular repositioning device: The most popular type of appliances keeps your airway open by positioning your jaw forward.
  • Tongue retaining device: This kind of appliance helps hold your tongue in the best position to keep your airway open.


Who Determines Candidacy for Oral Appliance Therapy?

As mentioned above, doctors may first suggest CPAP therapy for people who suffer from serious sleep apnea. Left untreated, this condition can increase the risks for severe medical issues, including heart disease, depression, diabetes, obesity, and others. Even before developing a major health issue, many people with untreated sleep apnea notice that they’re tired, forgetful, or irritable during daytime hours. CPAP therapy is a proven and effective treatment.

However, for some patients, CPAP therapy isn’t ideal, mostly because of a lack of compliance. The machines are typically bulky, require power, and very often, require the use of a bulky and uncomfortable mask. Sometimes, the machines leak and blow air on sleeping partners. While CPAP therapy offers an effective treatment for sleep apnea, it only works if people use their machines as instructed.

So, reasons to consider oral appliance therapy over CPAP therapy include:

  • If patients don’t use their CPAP machines, they won’t provide effective treatment.
  • Some patients might use the machines despite drawbacks. Yet, they could still get treated and enjoy a better experience with an oral appliance.

Before suggesting an oral appliance as a more convenient alternative to CPAP, your dentist will conduct an examination and have you complete a questionnaire. They may also collaborate with other medical professionals involved in your treatment. Medical professionals will factor in the severity of your medical issue, your preferences, and which solution offers a better chance of compliance.


Who Makes the Best Candidates for Oral Appliance Therapy?

As noted above, people who snore or suffer from mild or moderate sleep apnea may make suitable candidates for oral appliance therapy.


People Who Suffer From Mild Sleep Apnea

As an alternative to CPAP therapy, oral appliance therapy can benefit some patients because it provides a more comfortable, convenient option. Sadly, people who suffer from more serious sleep apnea may not be the best candidates because an oral appliance won’t offer an adequate solution. On the other hand, some people don’t respond well to CPAP therapy, so an oral appliance offers a good alternative.


People Who Snore

Just about half of the population snores at one time or another during sleep. Some people snore when they suffer from allergies or colds. As people age or carry extra weight, the chance of snoring increases. While men generally snore more than women, pregnant women may snore because of fluid retention and weight gain.

Besides the nuisance of snoring for sleeping partners, it’s generally not considered a health risk. However, sometimes frequent snoring may be a symptom of more serious medical issues, like sleep apnea. An oral appliance can silence snoring and provide better sleep quality for both the patient and other people who sleep nearby.


How to Find Out if Oral Appliance Therapy is Best for You?

If you suffer from sleep apnea or even frequent snoring, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with your dentist. Good candidates for oral appliance therapy can notice improvements in sleep quality, mood, and overall health right away.

A single appointment should provide enough information to determine if you’re a good candidate.

Find out more about how we treat sleep apnea and then make an appointment at Bunker Hill Dentistry in the Memorial area of Houston today.