Sleep Apnea: Oral Devices - Topic Overview
Oral devices (also called oral appliances) are sometimes used to treat obstructive
sleep apnea (OSA). They push the tongue and jaw
forward, which makes the airway larger and improves airflow. This also
reduces the chance that tissue will collapse and narrow the airway when you
breathe in. Examples include a
mandibular repositioning device (MRD) or a tongue-retaining device.
Oral breathing devices are sometimes a reasonable alternative to
continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Although
oral breathing devices generally do not work as well as CPAP, they may be
considered for people who:1
mild or moderate sleep apnea.
- Prefer not to use or who have failed CPAP
- Had surgery that did not work.
behavioral changes that did not work.
- Are at a healthy weight.
Choose a dentist or orthodontist who has experience fitting these
devices. And go back to your dentist for regular check-ups to make sure the
device still fits well.
Oral breathing devices can improve sleep quality and reduce daytime sleepiness.2 The use of oral devices reduced the episodes of abnormal breathing in about half of the people who used them.1
Possible problems with devices that fit inside the mouth
- Buildup of saliva in the mouth, requiring
- Discomfort, especially in the morning. The
devices can be uncomfortable, and people tend not to use them over the long
- Damage to teeth, soft tissues in the mouth, and the jaw
joints. So it is important that a skilled dentist or orthodontist fit the
device to prevent these problems.
If you use an oral breathing device to treat sleep apnea, use it
every night. Excess saliva in your mouth and mild discomfort should become less
bothersome with regular use.
An oral breathing device used for a child with sleep apnea must be
refitted periodically as the child grows.