Do Dental Appliances Work for Sleep Apnoea?

Yes. Dental appliances are a proven effective treatment for the assistance of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and snoring. Despite the fact that CPAP is a mainstream treatment of OSA, dental appliances are becoming a popular alternative as new research solidifies their efficacy in treating OSA and snoring. Working with your sleep physician, doctor or dentist, it is important to find the most suitable device for you. Following the fitting of your device, basic aftercare ensures that the treatment is working.

Sleep Apnoea Oral Appliances and Dental Devices

Also known as Jaw Advancing Device (JAD), Mandibular Oral Appliance (MAS) or Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD), oral appliances are custom made by dentists using a plastic-like shape, framed to the specific shape of the patient’s teeth and mouth. These discreet appliances assist with the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring in Geelong.

An oral appliance can be solely used to treat OSA or may be used in conjunction with the CPAP machine; if the patient would like an alternative treatment. Due to the lightness and compactness of the appliance, oral appliances are increasingly popular for travelers as they can be taken anywhere and used in cars and on planes.

There are several businesses that sell ‘one size fits all’ oral appliances. These are commonly referred to as “bite and boil” appliances. Whilst they may work in the short term and are often cheaper, they often quickly become loose and ineffective. A custom-made appliance may seem expensive, but when you think about the improved quality of sleep and vitality of life that costs as little as the dollar a night; it’s important to make sure your sleep physician, doctor, and/or dentist support the appliance.

Mandibular Advancement Splint for Sleep Apnoea

How Does the Sleep Apnoea Oral Appliance Work?

Discreet, sleek and streamline, custom-made oral appliances fit the patient’s upper and lower teeth snugly. The appliance works by gently bringing the jaw forward, increasing the size of the upper airway to diminish any obstruction that leads to sleep apnoea and snoring.

Each device is fitted with an adjustable mechanism that gives the patient the freedom to adjust the appliance at their own pace. Adjustments are made in the minimalist of increments (around 1/4mm per turn).

Another major benefit of the oral appliance is it protects the teeth from clenching and grinding. So many wearers of a bruxism splint, only need to wear the oral appliance.

Benefits of Oral Appliance Therapy for Sleep Apnoea

  • Improved consistency of therapy compared to different treatments for sleep apnoea
  • Compact and lightweight– the device can fit into a pocket
  • Discreet – device is not visible to bed accomplice when the mouth is closed
  • Immediate response – most patients can feel the change on the first night
  • Energy conservation – the device does not need to be connected to an electrical outlet to work.

Side Effects of Oral Appliance Therapy

There are few side effects associated with the appliance. However, some sleep apnoea patients who use oral appliances may encounter TMD or temporal mandibular joint disorder. Others report an unusual sensation shortly in the wake of removing the device in which they experience issues returning their teeth to their usual position. Some patients may encounter a slight change in their bite after prolonged use.

Due to these possible side effects, it is vital to find the right dentist trained to aide and monitor their patients throughout the treatment process.

Problems with Sleep Apnoea Dental Devices

The main problem associated with sleep apnoea dental devices is that it is hard to screen efficacy. Most new CPAP machines are installed with software which shows the patient and the healthcare providers the measure of hours of use and the presence of persisting respiratory events. However, because of their size, the majority of sleep apnea appliances are not able to contain the same innovation that a CPAP machine does. The newest and most innovative appliances contain microchips that are able to measure the numbers of hours the appliance has been worn over several months to ensure the patient has effectively been using the device.

Mandibular Advancement Splint for Sleep Apnoea

One other issue with oral appliances is that they are most effective during their first few years with the majority of appliances last between 3-5 years. Appliances are known to last longer if the patient cares for and maintains the appliance effectively. However, if the patient is a heavy grinder or clenches the appliance may have a shorter lifespan. With new materials and innovations being brought out, many patients like to have a second or even third appliance and like a car, tend to “trade it in” every five years or so.

How would you get a sleep apnoea oral appliance and dental device?

The first step to getting any sleep apnoea treatment device is to see your doctor or dentist with your sleep apnoea concerns. Not all healthcare professionals are trained in therapy for the snoring treatment and obstructive sleep apnoea, so it is important to find the right doctor or dentist for you. Your GP may refer you to a sleep physician. Once you are comfortable with your chosen healthcare professional and it is suspected you may have sleep apnoea; you may be referred to have a sleep study which can either be done in the hospital or at home.

If the sleep study results show a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea you may choose to discuss an oral appliance as treatment. The process is quite simple. The dentist will have impressions of your teeth. These impressions are made into models at a laboratory so that a custom-made appliance can be made. The dentist will show you how to wear your appliance and adjust it. After wearing the appliance for a few weeks the dentist will review you to monitor your progress and assist with any adjustments that may need to be made.

There are many designs of oral appliance available on the market and it is important to find a design that is right and the most comfortable for you.