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What’s The Deal With Dental Devices?

March 23, 2022


Dental devices – also known as oral appliances – are a common alternative to PAP therapy for obstructive sleep apnea patients. While every patient should do their own research to find out whether an alternative would work for them, here is some important info on dental devices. 

How Do Dental Devices Work? 

Dental devices are placed in the mouth before sleep to keep the mouth (tongue and jaw) in place so that your airway stays open, allowing you to breathe throughout the night. 

Three Different Types of Dental Device

There are three different types of dental devices that you can use. 

  1. Tongue-retaining devices.

This soft plastic device fits over your tongue to keep it forward and out of your mouth while you sleep. This is a cheap alternative to PAP therapy. The main complaint with the device is lack of comfort, but many patients also complain that it falls off during sleep without the patient realizing. 

  1. Mouthguards.

The mouthguard can be purchased online for less than $100 and fits the user in much the same way as a sports mouthguard: by boiling the device to soften it and then biting down the imprint your teeth. The device repositions the lower jaw to aid breathing. 

A major complaint with using a mouth guard is that it doesn’t require a trained professional. This can cause major issues as the root cause of your sleep problem has not been identified. In some cases, mouth guards can worsen sleep apnea by blocking part of the airway. 

  1. Mandibular advancement devices. 

These devices are more extreme, fitting over top and bottom teeth with the ability to tighten in order to move the jaw forward. Over time, this can change the structure of your face. Many patients choose to have a custom device created by their dental professional, but if you choose this route, please be sure to check that your dentist is certified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The mandibular devices had the same common complaint as the other devices: they tended to slide out at night.  

Common complaints of all dental devices are the following: 

  • Fall out during the night
  • Make user want to gag
  • Aching jaw after use

The dental devices do work for some patients, but the success rate is lower than that shown using a PAP therapy machine, as shown in a study by the National Library of Medicine (NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov) 

As usual, we recommend seeing a doctor about sleep issues before trying any remedies for sleep apnea. If you would like to speak with one of our sleep specialists, please use the form below to contact us: 

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