Treating obstructive sleep apnea: CPAP therapy vs. oral appliances

You’ve discussed your symptoms with your dentist. You diligently completed the at-home sleep study. Then there’s the diagnosis. You do indeed have obstructive sleep apnea. Now what?

When it comes to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, you have several options that accomplish the same goal — keeping the airway open to ensure you get the oxygen you need during sleep — but in very different ways. As you weigh your options, it may help to understand two of the most common forms of treatment: CPAP machines and oral appliances.

A full face mask for a CPAP machine.

A full face mask for a CPAP machine

CPAP therapy

CPAP — continuous positive airway pressure — machines operate much like their description. The machine prevents your throat from collapsing when you inhale during sleep by providing a constant stream of air pressure. It consists of prongs that fit into your nose, and a mask that covers the nose or both the nose and mouth. Connected to the mask is a tube through which the air passes from the machine to your throat.

Oral appliances

Similar in appearance to a sports mouthguard, the most common dental appliances for sleep apnea fit over the upper and lower teeth like a retainer. Known as mandibular advancement devices, they have a pole-like attachment that pushes the lower jaw forward and down, propping the mouth open and preventing the throat from collapsing during sleep.

How we can help

When it comes to treating obstructive sleep apnea, we at DaVinci Dentistry know there’s no one-size-fits all solution for everyone. CPAP machines may indeed be the best option for some patients. But for those who cannot tolerate them (noise, nasal congestion, skin and eye irritation, and mask leaks are among the most common complaints), dental appliances provide a viable solution. The fact that they are silent, simple to use and portable is appealing to many patients.

If you experience drowsiness on a regular basis and snore at night (or are told by a bed mate that you snore), talk to us about it. As dentists trained in dental sleep medicine, we can coordinate the sleep studies required for diagnosis and fit you with a custom-made appliance. Call 817-251-9333.

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