Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that causes your airway to become obstructed intermittently during your sleep. Not only does sleep apnea keep you from having a good night’s sleep, but it can also lead to serious problems like arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke and even death. While continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is usually the recommended treatment for sleep apnea, if your sleep apnea is mild to moderate, a dental sleep appliance may be recommended. Dental sleep appliances have also been used for individuals who struggle to use CPAP therapy for a variety of reasons.
There are 2 basic types of dental sleep appliances. The first type is the mandibular advancement device, which consists of two pieces that are hinged together in your mouth. Together, these pieces change the position of your lower jaw and tongue, which prevents your airway from becoming obstructed during sleep. The second type, the tongue-retaining mouthpiece, works in a similar fashion, but also secures your tongue to prevent it from becoming an airway obstruction during sleep.
CPAP has been shown to be the most effective treatment for severe sleep apnea, but is not always well tolerated. Compared to CPAP masks, a dental appliance may be less irritating. If you frequently move in your sleep, you may find that a dental appliance lets you rest more comfortably with less equipment. Also, traveling is less complicated.
Dental appliances should always be custom fitted for the individual. If you have sleep apnea or suspect that you do, consult with your doctor and dentist for the treatment that is best for you.