Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy has long been the gold standard in treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. And for the patient population that uses CPAP on a nightly basis as directed, this treatment provides significant health improvements. However, many patients simply reject the treatment or can only partially tolerate it. For every night that a CPAP user sleeps without his or her mask, the individual is exposed to all of the health risks associated with sleep apnea, including headaches, depression, irregular heartbeat and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
The good news is that CPAP is no longer the only effective, non-invasive treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Oral appliance therapy is an option that arrived on the scene more recently. In this blog, the sleep apnea specialist at eos dental sleep will explain how an oral appliance for sleep apnea works and how it differs from CPAP.
How does an oral appliance for sleep apnea work?
An oral appliance for sleep apnea is a custom-made device that’s fabricated to fit your unique mouth structure. It works by repositioning the structures in the mouth that can contribute to airway obstruction and snoring at night. For many patients, obstruction has to do with the tongue and/or a narrow airway. An oral appliance for sleep apnea effectively repositions and stabilizes the tongue and the jaw, enlarging the airway and making it less likely that your breathing will be interrupted during sleep due to a blockage.
How does an oral appliance for sleep apnea differ from CPAP?
There are a number of ways in which an oral appliance for sleep apnea varies from CPAP. Differences include:
- No mask worn – With oral appliance therapy, a confining CPAP mask is traded out for a comfortable oral device.
- Quick adjustment period – Uptake and acceptance of an oral appliance for sleep apnea generally occurs much faster than with CPAP. Most patients adjust to using the device within a few nights.
- Small device that’s easy to travel with – Unlike CPAP, an oral appliance is small, compact and easy to take with you. There are no tubes, cords or multiple parts to worry about.
- No negative side effects – While CPAP has a host of commonly cited user complaints including facial irritation, dry mouth and a runny nose, oral appliances cause minimal if any side effects.
- Higher compliance rates – One reason why oral appliance therapy is an effective sleep apnea treatment alternative for many patients is that it is much easier to use than CPAP on a nightly basis. Because of this, compliance with an oral appliance for sleep apnea is higher than with CPAP therapy.
Are there any similarities between an oral appliance for sleep apnea and CPAP?
While there are numerous ways in which these two treatment options differ, there are also some similarities between oral appliance therapy and CPAP. Like CPAP, oral appliance therapy is a non-invasive treatment for sleep apnea and snoring that requires no surgery. In addition, an oral appliance for sleep apnea is covered by most insurance plans.
Am I a candidate for an oral appliance for sleep apnea?
Many patients are excellent candidates for oral appliance therapy – particularly those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea with obstruction caused primarily by the tongue or a narrow airway. The first step to finding out whether this treatment option will work for you is to schedule a consultation at eos dental sleep’s Philadelphia office. Our sleep specialist will perform a thorough evaluation and, if necessary, may recommend that you undergo a home sleep study to confirm a diagnosis for sleep apnea.
While obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can mean troubling consequences for your health, your treatment doesn’t have to be so troublesome. If you’ve been prescribed a CPAP mask but are unable to use it or if you’ve gone untreated and want to learn more about an oral appliance for sleep apnea, contact eos dental sleep today. You can also get started by filling out the schedule appointment form right on this page. We look forward to helping you achieve a better night’s sleep.