Benefits of Sleep Apnea Oral Appliances

oral appliances

Do you wake up every morning feeling more tired than when you went to bed? Does your partner complain that your snoring is keeping them awake? Do you regularly suffer from headaches, or daytime fatigue? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then you could be one of the estimated 22 million Americans that suffer from a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. This common health problem can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing and relationships, but oral appliances recommended by your dentist can help to reduce the symptoms and ensure you and your family get better quality sleep.

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What is sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. When we sleep, the muscles and soft tissue in our bodies relax. In people who suffer with OSA, they relax so much that they can narrow or block our airway, causing an obstruction in our breathing. The subsequent lack of oxygen reduces blood flow to the brain, which then sends a signal prompting the body to breathe. The patient then takes a much larger breath than normal, which is strong enough to push past the obstruction. This tends to sound like a choke, snort or gasp and can be loud enough to wake someone sleeping next to you.

The severity of a patient’s sleep apnea can vary hugely. In mild cases, only one or two episodes a night may be observed, while patients with severe OSA may have 30 or more episodes of interrupted breathing in any one night!

Causes of sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is believed to have a number of different causes, including:

  • Excess weight. People who are overweight or obese are significantly more likely to develop the condition. This is believed to be attributed to the extra soft, fatty tissue in and around their neck and throat, which makes an obstruction more possible.
  • Enlarged tonsils or adenoids. These glands sit in the airway, and if they become swollen, can form part of the obstruction that characterizes OSA.
  • Getting older. As we get older, our natural production of collagen and elastin slows, causing our skin to become looser. This sagging can occur on the neck, increasing the likelihood of developing OSA.
  • Excess alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a natural relaxant, and over-indulging can cause the muscles and tissue in the neck and throat to relax so a point where they are blocking the airway.
  • Smoking. Not only is smoking the leading cause of a variety of medical conditions including hypertension, stroke and cancer, but the nicotine in cigarettes can also irritate our airway and cause inflammation and fluid retention that can interrupt our regular pattern of breathing.
  • A family history. Some research shows that if you have a family history of OSA, you are more likely to inherit the condition.

Oral appliances treatment for sleep apnea

If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you will undoubtedly be considering what treatment options are available to you. We will often begin by recommending that you try oral appliance therapy (sometimes called ART), which involves wearing a custom-made device inside your mouth when you sleep, which will help keep your airway open.

There are two main types of oral appliance that are successfully used to treat OSA. These are:

Tongue retainers

Sometimes an OSA blockage is caused by the tongue falling back into the back of the throat. If this is the case, the patient can try and wear a tongue retainer, which works by changing the position of the tongue so that it is unable to fall back, thus reducing the episodes of OSA.

Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD)

Also known as MADS, mandibular advancement devices look very much like sports mouth guards and work by depressing the bottom jaw slightly, which naturally encourages the tongue to move forward. This also creates much more space behind the tongue, which should prevent full obstruction from occurring.

Benefits of choosing oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea

Many people decide to try oral appliance therapy as their first choice of treatment for sleep apnea, and there are a variety of reasons for this, including the unique benefits that this highly successful treatment can offer.

  • Better health. By treating your OSA, you can reap the benefits of better general health including a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
  • Better daytime concentration and mood. People who suffer from OSA may find that the interruptions to their breathing when they sleep cause them to feel very tired during the day. This can cause poor concentration, low mood, and irritability. However, by treating the OSA using oral appliances, the patient will get a much better quality of sleep, enjoy better concentration and a more positive outlook.
  • Easy to use. Oral appliances are small, removable devices that most patients quickly adjust to wearing. They are much easier to use than uncomfortable and restrictive PAP (positive airway pressure) machines and are portable and so much more convenient, especially if you travel regularly.

Reduced snoring. If you have a partner that you share a bed with, sleep apnea related snoring could be interrupting their sleep too. This often puts a strain on relationships. However, wearing an oral appliance designed to treat sleep apnea can reduce your symptoms, including snoring, helping both of you to get a restful sleep every night.


If you would like to know more about the benefits of sleep apnea oral devices, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with our friendly, knowledgeable team at Cadle Cosmetic Dentistry. Call us today at 727-312-1300.