Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Oral Appliance Therapy - Overview

Oral appliance therapy is a treatment for snoring and sleep apnea for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP. It involves wearing a removable oral appliance in your mouth as you sleep. The device fits much like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer.

Oral appliance therapy is recommended only for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP is the only effective treatment for severe sleep apnea.

An oral appliance prevents your airway from collapsing by either holding the tongue or supporting the jaw in a forward position. You must be custom fitted for an oral appliance in order for it to be effective. Over-the-counter devices are not recommended as a treatment option for snoring or sleep apnea.

Members of the sleep team collaborate to provide you with oral appliance therapy. The board certified sleep medicine physician must diagnose obstructive sleep apnea using a sleep study. Once you are diagnosed, a dental sleep medicine specialist can fit you with an oral appliance. These dentists must have special training in treating sleep apnea.

Types of oral appliances

There are a variety of oral appliances that can treat obstructive sleep apnea. Each device may differ in appearance. Most devices fall under one of the two following types:

Mandibular repositioning devices – These oral appliances reposition your lower jaw forward and down slightly to keep your airway open while you sleep. Mandibular repositioning devices are the most widely used types of oral appliances.

Tongue retaining devices – These types of oral appliances hold your tongue into place to keep your airway as open as possible.

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