While many people struggle with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), not everyone realizes it yet. Having a sleep study done can assess your breathing patterns while you sleep. It determines whether your airway is partially or completely collapsed, leaving you periodically gasping, choking, and snoring throughout the night. These sleep disturbances also result in lowered blood oxygen levels or hypoxemia which can affect organs like the brain and heart. It also means that your lungs and circulatory system aren’t functioning properly.
When it comes to OSA, not everyone feels comfortable using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Another option for these patients involves wearing a mouthguard such as an oral appliance or mandibular advancement device that is tailored to your mouth. These are designed to shift your tongue or jaw forward as you rest and open your airway.
Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea
These effective devices work with parts of the mouth that are contributing to your obstructive sleep apnea symptoms. For example, they work to help those with a small lower jaw or a tongue that continuously falls back into the throat, obstructing your airway. Sleep apnea mouth guards can shift the lower jaw forward so that your airway stays open or shift your tongue’s position forward instead. These oral appliances can help those with obstructive sleep apnea by doing the following:
- Lower your breathing pauses (called apneas) or the amount of shallow breathing (called hypopneas)
- Boost blood oxygen levels
- Lessen the amount of and volume of your snoring
- Lower your daytime fatigue
Investing in a sleep apnea mouth guard improves your overall health with better blood pressure, improves your quality of life and feeling more alert throughout your day. This treatment option is a safe and effective way to boost your sleep health when you can’t handle CPAP therapy.
When beginning sleep apnea treatment with a mouth guard, it may take getting used to just as you would with a CPAP. Initially, you may experience the following side effects until you get used to wearing them. Side effects are most common in the first two months of wearing the appliance and usually go away you adjust to the device. Initially, you might experience dry mouth, irritation to the gums, headaches and tooth pain. Before you know it, these should subside.
Common Sleep Apnea Mouth Guards
- Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs): This shifts your jaw forward. Depending on the type, they may have a one or two-piece design. The one-piece designs keep the upper and lower jaw in place, while two-piece designs separate the upper and lower jaw for more comfort.
- Soft Palate Lifters: These devices raise your soft palate and uvula to keep vibrations from the soft palate from occurring. This movement effectively tightens the soft tissues and muscles in your upper airway so they can’t vibrate or obstruct the airway.
- Tongue-Retaining Devices (TRDs): These push the tongue forward, keeping it from falling back into your airway. You simply push your tongue into the appliance and it stays in place due to the suction for a comfortable fit.
Is a Mouth Guard Right for You?
One of the most important considerations of the type of appliance that is best for you is your willingness to consistently use it, as it would be for a CPAP. You might want to consider getting a sleep apnea appliance if the following apply to you:
- You have mild to moderate OSA.
- You don’t have OSA but you still snore.
- You have severe OSA but can’t handle a CPAP device.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it may be time to visit our office for a sleep medicine evaluation. We can help you find the optimal treatment tailored to your unique needs. You deserve a safe and soundless sleep to consistently get a good night’s sleep!