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The Pros and Cons of Using Oral Appliances to Treat Sleep Apnea

December 20, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — drdernick @ 11:17 am

wife angry while husband snoresA condition that is becoming more prevalent among Americans is sleep apnea, which refers to frequent lapses in breathing that can occur throughout the night. The main form of the condition is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which is caused by a partial blockage of the airway. One of the methods for treating the condition is to use oral appliances. Read on to learn about two different types of devices, how they function and the pros and cons of using them.

Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD)

The MAD is similar to an athletic mouthpiece in the way that it snuggly fits over the upper and lower teeth. The device works by shifting the lower jaw and tongue forward just enough to prevent the throat muscles from collapsing, which keeps the airway open.

Tongue Retaining Mouthpieces

The MAD device and tongue retaining mouthpiece are similar in design. The difference, though, is that the latter has a small compartment that fits around the tongue and relies on suction to maintain its forward position.

Because of its unique features, the tongue retaining mouthpiece is an option often used for patients who can’t have their jaw sufficiently shifted.

The Pros and Cons of Oral Appliances

While oral appliances offer more conveniences than the more traditional way of treating sleep apnea with a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, there are some perks and downsides to taking this route.

The Pros

Here are the advantages of using oral appliances:

  • A common problem expressed by patients treated with the CPAP machine is having an itchy nose when they awaken. People who are fitted with a custom oral appliance typically don’t have this issue.
  • Because there are no cords or wires attached, it’s less cumbersome to wear an oral appliance.
  • Its compact design also makes it easier to transport.


The following are some of the disadvantages of using these types of devices to treat apnea:

  • Some patients may experience bouts of jaw pain, soreness or stiffness.
  • The shifting of the jaw can also cause teeth and gum pain.
  • Patients may experience either increased saliva production or dry mouth.
  • The position of the jaw may be permanently altered.
  • A final challenge is that a restoration (crown or bridge) may be left loose and unstable.

If you suspect that you are suffering from sleep breathing disorder, then you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to your physician to schedule a sleep test. If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, your local dentist can then help you get the proper rest your body needs.

About the Author

A graduate of the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, Dr. Robert G. Dernick has been providing top-notch dental care for nearly 40 years. Along the way, he has become one of the premier authorities in treating sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing (SDB) problems in the area. Dr. Dernick helps patients sleep better by providing them with custom-made oral appliances at his private practice, and he can be reached for more information through his website.

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