When it comes to sleep apnea treatments, many sufferers either can’t use or have comfort issues with the standard CPAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) device. This leads one to explore other options such as a sleep apnea mouth guard, or other dental appliance.
What are they?
– The most common device is called a mandibular advancement device or (MAD) for short. They typically look like sports mouth guard and come in several different variations. Another version that is available is called a tongue retraining device or (TRD). This is a splint that holds the tongue in place. Either device will need to be fitted and then followed up by an early checkup to ensure it is working properly.
How do they work?
– The MAD works by forcing the lower jaw forward and down slightly, which keeps the airway open at night. The TRD keeps the tongue in the optimal position to keep one’s airway as open as possible.
What are the benefits?
– The primary benefit is the significant reduction in apneas for those with mild to moderate apnea, especially if patients sleep either on their stomach or back. They do not work as well if patients lie on their side. The devices also improve the quality of sleep and a reduction in the loudness and frequency of snoring. Doctors also appreciate the larger percentage of compliance with dental appliances versus a CPAP.
Are there any downside?
– Yes, with any treatment option, there are some disadvantages. The main one being that dental appliances are not as effective overall as a CPAP device. Cost can also be a factor, as some are more expensive than others. Some side effects include mouth and tooth discomfort, dry lips, excessive salivation, and in some cases a worsening of the apnea. In some long-time users, it was found that permanent changes took place in the position of the teeth or jaw.
All in all, a sleep apnea mouth guard is a viable treatment option for those with light to moderate sleep apnea. It might also be worth considering for those with any form of sleep apnea that finds the CPAP device too problematic to use on a regular basis. The final judgment is left to those who must use it.