Pros and Cons of Oral Appliances
by Dr. Scott Bolding
If you’re like the other 40-50% of patients who have stopped using your CPAP machine, you may be wondering about other treatment options.
One common alternative to the CPAP machine is the oral appliance. Oral appliances treat sleep apnea by keeping their airway open while you sleep like a CPAP machine does. However, oral appliances don’t come with clunky masks and hoses.
If you are having a hard time using your CPAP machine, an oral appliance is an option. But like with any medical treatment there are pros and cons to oral appliances. They’re easier to use, more comfortable, and convenient for many patients. However, there are also downsides to consider. As always, talk everything through with your doctor before making a decision.
How Do Oral Appliances Work?Before we jump into the pros and cons of oral appliances we need to understand how oral appliances work. Oral appliances are custom-fit mouth guards that are designed to keep your airway open while you sleep. They fit in your mouth like an orthodontic mouth guard. There are two types of mouth guards. Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) support your jaw and move it forward while you sleep. They treat one of the most common causes of sleep apnea, underdeveloped jaws.
Let's Get Back to Normal.
It’s time to get the sleep you deserve. You don’t have to keep on living with the constant daytime sleepiness and other effects of sleep apnea. Schedule a consultation with our sleep apnea specialists today and start getting your life back.
Tongue stabilizing devices (TSDs) help keep your tongue in a forward position. When you sleep the muscles in your airway relax. This can cause your tongue to fall backward. Most of the time this isn’t a problem. But if you have excess tissue on your tongue it can block the airway. TSDs have a part that wraps around the tongue and keeps it from falling backward.
Pros of Oral Appliances
Oral appliances are a common alternative to CPAP machines. People tend to be more willing to use them over their CPAP machine. And there are plenty of pros of oral appliances to treat sleep apnea.
Easy to Use
One of the main benefits of oral appliances for sleep apnea is that they are easy to use. They don’t come with the masks, hoses, and machines that CPAPs do. So naturally, they are easier to set up and use. Instead of having to hook everything up, all you have to do is pop it in your mouth and go to sleep.
They are also easier to clean. With a CPAP machine you have to clean the mask, hose, and filters regularly. But you just have to clean your oral appliance like you would an orthodontic mouth guard. You can clean it quickly right after you take it out every morning.
One of the other common benefits of oral appliances is that they’re more comfortable than CPAP machines. CPAP machines have masks that either cover your nose or mouth. They can be clunky and make some people feel claustrophobic.
You may have had to wear an orthodontic mouthpiece when you were a teenager. An oral appliance for sleep apnea is not much different. They’re also custom-made to fit in your mouth.
For a lot of people, convenience is a major benefit of oral appliances. They come in a small carrying case. This makes them a great option for people who travel a lot.
Cons of Oral Appliances
Now let’s take a look at some cons of oral appliances. Even though they’re great for some people, they’re not always right for everyone.
Cause TMJ Problems
The biggest thing to think about when it comes to oral appliances is how it can affect your jaw joint. This side effect is most common with MADs. Since they push your jaw forward it can cause extra stress on your jaw joint.
If you already have issues with your jaw joint you may want to reconsider oral appliances as a treatment option. When you talk to your doctor make sure to mention any issues with your TMJ. They should inspect your jaw joint to make sure an oral appliance won’t make things worse.
Less Effective Than CPAP
Even though they are more comfortable than CPAP machines, oral appliances aren’t always as effective.
That’s why they’re usually only recommended to people with mild sleep apnea. If you have more severe sleep apnea, an oral appliance won’t do much good. In some cases, we may want to use an oral appliance along with CPAP therapy for patients who require higher levels of pressure.
Asp, K. C. (n.d.). Pros and Cons of Dental Sleep Apnea Treatment Devices. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.aastweb.org/blog/benefits-of-sleep-apnea-dental-appliances-pros-and-cons
Lenartowicz, A. (2022, September 1). Pros and Cons of Using an Oral Appliance for Sleep Apnea. CPAP.com Blog. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.cpap.com/blog/oral-appliance-sleep-apnea-pros-cons/
The Pros and Cons of Using Oral Appliances to Treat Sleep Apnea. (2019, January 30). The Woodlands Sleep Dentist Blog. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.thewoodlandssleepdentist.com/blog/2018/12/oral-appliances/