An alternative to CPAP is oral appliance therapy. It’s simple to use, generally comfortable, and a highly effective sleep apnea treatment for most sleep apnea sufferers. Although not as well-studied as CPAP, the studies we do have seem to indicate that for the best candidates it’s just as effective as CPAP at treating sleep apnea and protecting against health consequences.
Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliances have a lot of benefits to recommend them as an alternative to CPAP, including:
- Effective at treating obstructive sleep apnea
- Simple to use and adjust
- Easy maintenance
- No mask or straps to cause discomfort on the face
- No air hose to restrict movement or get tangled
- No forced air irritation
- Complementary to other sleep apnea treatments
- Can help prevent or treat TMJ
Although people may have difficulty learning to use, or, especially, clean their CPAP machine, an oral appliance is very simple to use. The lack of straps, mask, and air hose also make the oral appliance much more comfortable for many people.
Oral appliances also work well with sleep apnea lifestyle interventions. If the goal is to lose weight, tone muscles, and eventually eliminate the need for treatment, an oral appliance is a great choice and can help people get motivated and focused on their goal.
Since most sleep apnea sufferers also have the potential for TMJ, it’s crucial that they get sleep apnea treatment that is also healthy for their jaw joint. At the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness, we ensure that oral appliances are therapeutic for both sleep apnea and TMJ.
How Oral Appliances Work
Oral appliances take advantage of the fact that your jaw is one of the major supports for your airway. Repositioning your jaw can reposition the tissues of the airway, helping the airway to stay open better. When the jaw is properly positioned for many people, it doesn’t matter what position you sleep in or how much your muscles relax at night—your airway just won’t fall closed.
Repositioning the jaw can be both beneficial and problematic for people who are vulnerable to TMJ. If properly fitted, oral appliances can prevent or even treat TMJ.
This type of oral appliance has been scientifically proven to be highly effective, but it’s not the only type available. Oral appliances have also been designed to correct sleep apnea by repositioning the upper palate or the tongue. These may be effective for some people, but remain secondary in importance.
Limitations of Oral Appliances
Like CPAP, oral appliances have their limitations. Otherwise there would be no need for other sleep apnea treatments.
- Can’t treat central or mixed forms of sleep apnea
- Are usually not recommended as a first treatment for severe sleep apnea
- Can cause tooth and TMJ problems if poorly fitted
Since people are more likely to develop central sleep apnea after long periods with obstructive sleep apnea, it’s best to seek sleep apnea treatment early. With severe sleep apnea, you might not be able to reposition your jaw enough to fully open your airway and keep it open.
However, sometimes sleep dentists will try to push your jaw too far to try to keep your airway open at night. This can result in tooth and jaw problems, including development of TMJ, temporomandibular joint disorder. Although TMJ is not as life-threatening as sleep apnea, it is nonetheless a damaging and debilitating condition. At the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness, we are always aware of the connection between these two conditions and ensure that our oral appliances are fitted so they don’t cause TMJ problems and may provide therapeutic benefit.
To learn more about getting the best results from oral appliance therapy in Detroit, please call (248) 480-0085 the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness.