A study by Tufts University into the treatment choices for obstructive sleep apnea was completed. The Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded the review. The most convincing evidence supported the use of CPAP and night-time oral appliances. The paper stated that weight reduction and surgery may be beneficial, but there was not as much evidence to support the effectiveness of these therapies.
Obstructive sleep apnea affects about 12 million people in the United States, with many more going undiagnosed. The review revealed that CPAP treatment, which pumps air through a mask while the patient sleeps (CPAP), is highly successful in alleviating symptoms. Unfortunately, about half of those given CPAP devices find sleeping with the equipment and mask impossible. However, the study also discovered that a mandibular advancement device, an oral appliance designed by a dentist, was quite helpful in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is publishing information for patients that summarize the most up-to-date evidence for addressing obstructive sleep apnea and the additional issues that can be caused by untreated sleep apnea, such as heart disease, diabetes, and other health concerns.
Oral Appliances as a CPAP Alternative
If you have sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe a CPAP device. If you find it difficult to sleep with the mask or dislike the noise of the machine, ask about an oral appliance as an alternative treatment.
An oral appliance is a custom-fit mouthpiece that helps keep your airway open while you sleep. It is designed to fit your mouth exactly and is made of either plastic or metal.
The appliance attaches to your upper teeth and moves the lower jaw forward, which keeps the airway open. It is worn during sleep like a retainer or night guard.
An oral appliance may be a good choice if you:
- snore loudly
- have been told you stop breathing at night
- sleep poorly or are exhausted during the day
- have been diagnosed with mild sleep apnea
- cannot use a CPAP device because you find it difficult to sleep with the mask
- do not want to wear a mask during sleep.
If you are interested in using an oral appliance as an alternative to sleep apnea treatment, start by discussing the option with your sleep specialist. He or she can create a sleep study specifically designed to measure how well you respond to this type of appliance and make adjustments as needed. Then, arrange for an appointment with a dentist who specializes in treating sleep disorders. The sleep specialist will help you choose an oral appliance that fits your mouth and sleep needs, then give you instructions on how to use it effectively.
It is important to follow the advice of your sleep specialist in making adjustments when using this treatment method. Failure to do so may result in serious health problems from untreated OSA such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
If you are not satisfied with the results of oral appliance therapy, talk to your sleep specialist about other treatment options.