Most Sleep Apnea patients suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The tissues in the throat and upper airways become loose and sag obstructing the passage of airflow in the upper airway. Dental devices, also called mouthpieces, are becoming more popular as a treatment for the sleeping disorder.
What is a Mouthpiece?
A mouthpiece is also called a dental device or an oral appliance. A dental device is classified as a mouthpiece that has been molded to fit your mouth, teeth, and jawbone. In addition to treating Sleep Apnea, mouthpieces are also used to prevent the user from grinding their teeth during sleep and people with temporomandibular joint problems. If you are considering using a mouthpiece, you will have to visit an orthodontist to determine whether or not they are an ideal candidate for a mouthpiece or dental device. Not all patients are able to use an oral appliance due to positioning or structure of their jawbone.
How Does a Mouthpiece Help Sleep Apnea?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recognizes the use of an oral appliance as an acceptable treatment for Sleep Apnea. It is generally used to treat patients with snoring problems, a common symptom of Sleep Apnea; many of these patients have problems with CPAP therapy. The main culprits of snoring are also severe risk factors for Obstructive Sleep Apnea: muscles and tissue in the soft palate and the tongue. When the tongue muscles or soft palate tissues become too lax, they cause excessive crowding of the upper airway’s passage for airflow. The tissue, especially in the tongue, can lose its tone and slide back into the upper throat blocking the airway. A mouthpiece is used to pull the jaw slightly forward and down. The tongue follows the movement of the jaw, and a dental device can keep the tongue forward by moving the jaw forward. The mouthpiece helps ensure that the airway will stay open and free from obstruction caused by the upper throat muscles.
What is a MAD?
A mandibular advancement device, MAD, is the most commonly used type of anti-snore oral appliance, or dental device, used by patients to treat Sleep Apnea and snoring. Most people describe it as looking like a mouth guard used by athletes. Although it looks like a piece of sport’s equipment, it is not used to protect the mouth from injury. In fact, this oral appliance works by forcing the bottom of the jaw down very slightly. Pulling the jaw down reduces the likelihood of the tongue falling backwards into the throat and increased to openness and freedom in the upper airway. Mandibular advancement devices are most effective for Sleep Apnea patients when the user sleeps on their back and they use other treatment options like Breathe Right nasal strips. The treatment is not effective for people who sleep on their sides or stomach.
What is a TRD?
The TRD is much less common than the MAD, but it is still a relatively common treatment for Sleep Apnea sufferers. In fact, the tongue retaining device was one of the very first dental devices designed to help breathing issues during sleep. A tongue retaining device, or TRD, is worn to keep the tongue in place. This mouthpiece is essentially a splint that is used to keep the tongue from moving or sliding back into the throat. This oral device does not require fitting from an orthodontist because it does not require a custom fit or any routine adjustments.
What are the Benefits of Using a Mouthpiece?
- Compliance: Many Sleep Apnea patients are not compatible with CPAP therapy, even patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Many more patients are compatible with dental devices.
- Reduce Apnea Episodes: Many people who suffer from mild to moderate cases of OSA showed a significant reduction of apnea occurrences during the night while wearing an oral appliance. Some people with severe apnea experience reduction, but positive changes are not as likely.
- Improve Sleep: The use of a mouthpiece can greatly improve the quality of sleep in patients with respiratory problems like Sleep Apnea. The reduction of apneas means the reduction of arousals, and the reduction of arousals means an increased quality of sleep. Getting the proper sleep amount of sleep your body needs during the night will help you function better during the day. Proper sleep reduces daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, memory problems, focusing problems, and the number of accidents.
- Help Snoring: Mouthpieces can greatly reduce the amount or severity of snoring in apnea victims. Many people who don’t have sleeping disorders often use them because they have snoring problems.
- Price: Over time, using a mouthpiece will become much cheaper than using a CPAP machine. The position of the jaw will shift, and additional treatments will no longer be necessary.
- Comfort: Using a dental device is much more comfortable than using a breathing machine. Masks attached to PAP machines are large, irritating, and attached to tubing. They make accessibility and mobility during sleep much more difficult than oral appliances do.
- What is the Downside of Using a Mouthpiece?
- Pain: Wearing a mouthpiece during sleep can cause pain and discomfort in the mouth, jaw, or teeth of the user.
- Permanent Changes: Some mouthpiece users have experienced permanent shifting of the position of their teeth or jaw. Most shifting occurs after long-term use of a dental appliance. It is vital that users regularly meet with their health care provider to ensure that the devices are working and if they need adjustments; they will be able to make the adjustments for you.
- Worsen: In a very tiny percentage of patients, using a mouth piece made their Sleep Apnea worse. Although this is very rare, it is important for dental device users to meet with an orthodontist to make sure that their specific apnea case can be improved by an oral appliance.
Other Small Problems:
- Dry lips
- Excessive Salivation
- Problems Sleeping
What to Look for in a Mouthpiece:
- Make sure you pay attention to the price of your mouthpiece. They can range anywhere from fifty dollars to thousands of dollars.
- MADs tend to be much more comfortable than TRDs, so if you are a candidate for the MAD, choose that one.
- If you get a mouthpiece that was custom made to fit your mouth, it will last for much longer than an over-the-counter appliance. Custom mouthpieces, however, will require periodic adjustments.
- Make sure that your mouthpiece is as adjustable as you want. Some dental devices only have one setting, but others can be adjusted.