Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy has long been the gold standard option for treating patients with obstructive sleep apnea. However, CPAP may not be the best option for all patients, and there are a variety of reasons why an oral appliance for sleep apnea may be the right choice for helping you get your sleep apnea symptoms under control.We previously discussed what a dental/oral appliance for sleep apnea is and talked about the variety of types of appliances available (mandibular advancement devices and tongue-retaining mouthpieces), the pros and cons of oral appliances, as well as why you should see your dentist rather than purchasing an over-the-counter device.
Here we want to examine some of the reasons why an oral appliance may be the best option for a patient.
But first, take a look at the short video below for a comprehensive view of how dental devices used for treating sleep apnea work.
5 Reasons to get an oral appliance for sleep apnea
1. To treat snoring or upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS)
Contrary to popular belief, not everybody who snores has sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is often viewed as being on the extreme end of the sleep disordered breathing spectrum. At the other end you have benign snoring, which is snoring, that while relatively harmless to one's health, may be impacting the sufferer's bed partner's sleep. Loud snoring may not be causing the individual themselves to lose quality sleep, but may instead be impacting a loved one's sleep.
Between benign snoring and obstructive sleep apnea is upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). This disorder may not have a lot of the long-term health problems as sleep apnea does, but it can still cause frequent interruptions to the patient's sleep leaving them feeling tired and excessively sleepy the next day. Furthermore, untreated UARS can eventually develop into OSA.
Patients who want to take control of their snoring, either for the benefit of their bed partner or to treat their frequent sleep disturbances, should ask their dentist or sleep specialist about the possibility of being fitted with a dental device.
2. To treat mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.
Patients with low apnea/hypopnea indexes (cessations of breathing/decreases in breathing) are often the ideal candidates for oral appliances.
Because the AHI index is so low in mild sleep apnea patients, the disorder can easily be managed with an oral device rather than a CPAP machine.
Oral appliances are often cheaper, come with less equipment, and are easier to care for than CPAP devices making them very appealing for mild/moderate sleep apnea patients.
3. You simply can't tolerate CPAP therapy or fail CPAP compliance
There are a lot of complaints that CPAP patients have including discomfort tolerating air pressure, discomfort wearing a mask, claustrophobia from wearing a mask, and more. And while many patients just need a period of adjustment until they see the positive results CPAP use is having on their health, there are some that just simply refuse to continue CPAP use.
For these patients an alternative treatment may be necessary, and getting an oral device may just be the best option. For patients on CPAP that have moderate to severe sleep apnea, an oral device will not be able to get their AHI index down to zero like CPAP can, but it can at least help lower their numbers. A little help is always better than no help at all.
4. Use with CPAP therapy to lower pressure levels
Like we've said, high-pressure settings is one of the biggest complaints from CPAP users. And unfortunately, patients with severe sleep apnea will more than likely have very high pressure settings to keep them from having apnea events.
Patients who wear both an oral appliance while also using a nasal mask or pillow for CPAP will find that the oral device can help manage their sleep apnea symptoms enough to allow their CPAP pressure settings to be lowered to a more tolerable pressure.
In these cases, using dual treatments can go a long way towards a more positive outcome with therapy compliance.
5. It can make traveling and camping easier
Another complaint that CPAP users have that dental appliances can solve is the difficulty patients have bringing their equipment with them when traveling. Lugging around one's machine, masks, battery packs, and accessories can be off-putting, and many patients opt to go without treatment during times of travel.
The Transcend Travel CPAP has successfully eliminated many of these concerns as it is a device that is small (the size of a soda can) and very lightweight (under a pound), but it is still nowhere near as portable or convenient as bringing an oral appliance.
Unlike bringing a CPAP device, which has stringent rules for in-flight use and may require extra baggage to bring, an oral appliance doesn't take up almost any room in your luggage, won't bother your neighbor with its noise while you sleep on a plane, and doesn't require a power outlet or battery to make it work. Dental appliances may be the ideal therapy for the frequent traveler.
If you live in Alaska and want to know if an oral appliance for sleep apnea may be right for you, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic by clicking the link below and receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator.