Obstructive sleep apnea – a condition marked by loud snoring and repeated cessation of breathing while you sleep – can be treated in several different ways. The most common treatments are with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine and a custom-designed oral appliance from a dental health specialist. While each treatment offers a number of advantages for different patients, your dentist may recommend combining CPAP and an oral appliance for optimal results.
How Does CPAP Help?
Sleep apnea describes the closure of your airway due to mouth and throat tissues collapsing into it as you sleep. CPAP prevents airway obstruction by providing a continuous flow of air to keep the airway clear and open. The air is administered through a mask that the patients wears while sleeping, and a small machine connected to the mask provides the continuous air pressure.
How Does an Oral Appliance Help?
As a common alternative to a CPAP machine, your dentist may be able to prescribe a custom-designed sleep guard, instead. A sleep guard is similar to an athletic mouthguard, but more form-fitting so that you can sleep more comfortably. The appliance holds your lower jaw slightly forward to keep help prevent mouth and throat tissues from clogging the airway.
Can I Use Both?
Patients with more stubborn cases of sleep apnea may find best results by combining an oral appliance with CPAP therapy. The appliance reduces the amount of pressure that the CPAP needs to apply, and can also carry the mask to avoid the need for straps to keep it in place. If you believe that you might benefit from joint CPAP and oral appliance therapy, then speak with your dentist about which option may work best for you.