Oral Appliance Therapy
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which the patient’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. This occurs because either the airway is obstructed for one of many reasons or the brain does not send the correct signals to breathe. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to new or worsening conditions and health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and moodiness. Although less common than other treatments, oral appliance therapy is one way to treat sleep apnea. If you believe you have sleep apnea, Lincoln Smiles can help.
What Is Oral Appliance Therapy?
Oral appliance therapy, or OAT, is the use of custom-made dental appliances to treat sleep apnea as well as snoring. This treatment consists of a device that is worn in the mouth, similar to a sports mouthguard or retainer. Sometimes other sleep apnea treatments, such as weight loss or surgery, are used in combination with oral appliance therapy to provide you with the best results possible.
Oral appliance therapy repositions the jaw, moving it forward and down to open the airway, which reduces snoring and helps you breathe more freely, or it holds the tongue in position to prevent it from blocking your airway. The best type of oral appliance therapy device depends on each patients’ personal circumstances.
Is Oral Appliance Therapy Right for Me?
If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea, or if you suffer from severe sleep apnea, but are not able to use other sleep apnea treatments like CPAP, oral appliance therapy might be right for you.
Oral appliances are worn only while sleeping. They are custom-made to fit your mouth using impressions or models of your teeth, which are taken in our office. The appliance is made in a dental lab using your impressions to provide the best shape and fit for your mouth. Once the device has been created, you will return to our office for a fitting. We will adjust as needed to ensure proper fit and to maximize its effectiveness. We will also teach you how to care for your oral appliance to maintain effectiveness and lengthen its lifespan. You may need follow-up visits with us in the next weeks or months to ensure a proper fit and optimal effectiveness. Also, be sure to attend regular dental examinations and checkups.
OAT has advantages and disadvantages, as do most forms of treatment, dental or otherwise. Compared to the commonly used CPAP, these small dental appliances are considered easier to wear and adjust, more comfortable, and more convenient with which to travel. They are also quiet, whereas a CPAP machine produces a humming noise, and are much easier to care for.
There are, of course, downsides to OAT as well. Some patients report minor side effects like a dry mouth or excessive salivation, discomfort in the teeth or jaw, or changes in bite. While less common, other potential complications with OAT use include symptoms of temporomandibular joint disease, or TMD (sometimes called TMJ, the name for the joint).
If you believe oral appliance therapy, or night mouthguards, is the right treatment for your sleep apnea or snoring, we can help. Call Lincoln Smiles at 916-543-8800 today to schedule a consultation with our friendly professionals.