Oral appliances are simple in how they function as sleep treatments. An oral appliance keeps the airway open by keeping the lower jaw and tongue from falling back and blocking the airway. This is similar to the “head tilt, chin lift” procedure taught in CPR classes. While there are many appliances on the market, they all basically do the same thing—keep the airway open by preventing the jaw from falling back.
Oral appliances are made out of a variety of materials—most being adjustable. The sleep treatment appliance being adjustable is important so that an effective jaw position can be found. In our offices patients are routinely scheduled for follow up sleep studies during which the appliance can be adjusted by the sleep technician to ensure that the appliance is working as well as possible.
Types of Appliances
ELASTIC MANDIBULAR ADVANCEMENT (EMA)
One of the most comfortable of the oral appliances for sleep treatments of sleep apnea and snoring. It is made with a very thin and comfortable material, along with elastic bands that allow for a good range of motion; with the ability to easily speak and drink while the appliance is in place.
The EMA can be adjusted by using different lengths of bands. The bands also come in different densities which allows for a custom, comfortable fit.
MEDICAL DENTAL SLEEP APPLIANCE (MDSA)
A safe and effective treatment for snoring, and mild to moderate sleep apnea. The laboratory made MDSA holds the jaw and tongue forward and prevents the throat from collapsing during sleep.
The MDSA is scientifically proven as an effective method for treating snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea. The MDSA is an alternative therapy when other treatments that involve nasal CPAP or surgery are not accepted.
A relatively new appliance on the market. Its strong point is the fact that it is very smooth and comfortable. It is unique in that the upper and lower component of the appliance are not connected, as with other appliances. This allows for full opening of the mouth. The SomnoMed can also be adjusted.
A non-custom, sleep treatment appliance invented by Dr. Spencer. It is very comfortable and costs less than custom made appliances, as there is no need for impressions of the teeth, creation of models, and custom lab fabrication. The disadvantage of the Silent Sleep is that the jaw position cannot be adjusted by the patient. This may mean several office visits are needed to find the best position. The Silent Sleep is used mostly for simple snoring cases. The Silent Sleep is far more comfortable and less bulky than appliances seen on TV like the Pure Sleep. Buying an appliance on TV or through the internet should be avoided since there is no contact with a dentist and oral appliances can have negative dental side effects—especially when there is no follow up. If you’ve tried a TV appliance and it helped but you couldn’t stand to use it (due to bulkiness or comfort issues), then a Silent Sleep or a custom appliance like the EMA may be indicated.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Linked Health Issues
Sleep Apnea is also considered a risk factor for several serious health problems, such as:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Attack
*Note that most insurance companies consider the treatment of snoring as a “cosmetic” issue, and therefore won’t cover the cost of treatment.
Affects Children Also
Sleep apnea also affects children. Usually this is due to the child having large tonsils that obstruct the airway; just like in adults, often snoring is a sign of an obstructed airway. Some of the problems common in children that have been linked to sleep apnea include:
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Mood disorders
- Bed wetting
- Problems learning
- Growth problems
To see if your child may be at risk, view the video of sleep apnea in children.
Affects Sleep Partner
Sleep apnea can also adversely affect the sleep of the bed partner of the person with sleep apnea. Please click the link to read a study done by the Mayo Clinic on the effect of sleep apnea and snoring on the bed partner.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
The quality of your sleep greatly affects your quality of life. The good news is that help is readily available from a sleep apnea clinic and usually doesn’t require medications. If you think you may have sleep apnea or you know someone who might, please ask us for a referral to a qualified sleep specialist in your area, or talk to your primary care doctor. Treating sleep apnea can add more life to your years and more years to your life.
Oral appliance therapy has become a widely used and accepted method of treating sleep disordered breathing. The gold standard therapy for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Although CPAP is usually very effective in treating OSA, there are many patients who are not able to tolerate its use. If you have tried to use CPAP but have given up on using the therapy, an oral appliance may be for you. Contact CPC Idaho, your sleep apnea clinic, for a consultation.