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How is an oral appliance used to treat sleep apnea?

An oral appliance is a device that is placed over your teeth while you sleep. It may resemble a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. The device prevents the airway from collapsing by holding the tongue in position or by sliding your jaw forward so that you can breathe while you sleep. You may prefer sleeping with an oral appliance rather than a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A dentist trained in dental sleep medicine can fit you with an oral appliance after you are diagnosed with sleep apnea. Oral appliance therapy is recommended for patients with mild to moderate apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP.

This content originally appeared on the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website.

It was first made in the 1930s. Its research was started in the 1980s for the treatment of sleep apnea.

It holds the jaw forward to prevent the back of the throat from collapsing. There are currently over 70 different designs and a dentist delivers them. Some are not approved for sleep apnea, only snoring.

It can be effective especially in patients having mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It is less effective than cPAP but most people find it much more comfortable.

Since sleep apnea is potentially a life threatening condition, a physician best treats it and if an oral appliance is the treatment of choice it is best provided by a dentist with extensive experience and education in the area of sleep medicine.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.