Mouth Guard Endorsed for Sleep Apnea
Wearing Device While Sleeping Viewed as Alternative Treatment for Sleep Disorder
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 3, 2006 -- It may look like it belongs on the football field, but a
mouth guard-like device may help millions of people (and their mates) who
suffer from sleep apnea sleep
a bit easier.
An estimated 18 million Americans have
obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder caused by an obstructed
airway due to the tongue and soft tissues falling into the back of the throat
during sleep. This results in short episodes when breathing is stopped.
Obstructive sleep apnea leads to excessive daytime sleepiness and has been
associated with increased risk for high
blood pressure, stroke, heart problems, and death.
Although continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most effective
treatment available for obstructive sleep apnea, new guidelines recommend the
use of oral appliances for the treatment of mild to moderate obstructive sleep
apnea in people who don't respond to CPAP or have difficulty sticking with the
CPAP involves wearing a mask attached to a machine that delivers air with
increased pressure while you sleep. But researchers say many people find this
treatment uncomfortable or intolerable, and an oral device may be an attractive
"OSA is a serious, life-threatening condition -- but for many patients,
alleviating its effects can be as easy as utilizing an oral appliance at
night," says Kent Moore, MD, DDS, president of the American Academy of Dental
Sleep Medicine, in a news release. "Oral appliances, which resemble sports
mouth guards, may control mild to moderate OSA with minimal discomfort or
Researchers say there are many types of oral appliances that may be used to
treat sleep apnea, snoring, or both. When
worn during sleep, they help to maintain an open airway by repositioning or
stabilizing the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, or uvula (the fingerlike piece
of tissue that hangs down from the soft palate at the back of the mouth).
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are excessive snoring and daytime
sleepiness. It is diagnosed with special tests while you sleep, usually in a
The recommendations appear in the February issue of Sleep, the
journal of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.