The use of specialised mouthpieces known as oral appliances can be an effective method of treating both snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea. Oral appliances are fitted by a dentist who is trained in their use, usually in consultation with a respiratory or sleep-disorder physician.

Oral appliance therapy

Oral dental appliances have helped many people who snore or suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea. The types of appliances are numerous. They are worn during sleep and help to keep the airway open by:

  • Bringing the jaw forward, or
  • Lifting up the soft palate, or
  • Holding the tongue forward.

In every 100 snorers, about 95 will have a decrease in the noise levels they make during sleep. Of every 100 people with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnoea, about 80 will have either good or excellent results while using these appliances.

Advantages of oral appliance therapy

The treatment of snoring or obstructive sleep apnoea with oral appliance therapy is safe, painless and effective. Treatment is usually reversible and does not involve surgery. The appliances are relatively inexpensive and easy to wear. It is often possible to speak, yawn or even drink while wearing an oral appliance. As the appliances are small and light, they are easy to carry during travel. If an oral appliance is cleaned and stored correctly, it should last for years.

Side effects of oral appliance therapy

Side effects of oral appliance therapy may include:

  • Temporary discomfort around the teeth or jaw joint
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive salivation
  • Irritation to the soft tissues of the mouth
  • Minor irregularities to the bite (this is usually temporary)

More severe side effects are rare. These may include significant discomfort to the jaw joint or permanent changes to the bite.

The symptoms and signs of obstructive sleep apnoea

People who have obstructive sleep apnoea almost always snore loudly and usually have a number of other symptoms, including:

  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Tiredness on waking
  • Sore, dry throat on waking
  • Morning headache
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory deterioration
  • Decreased sex drive or impotence
  • Personality changes that may include irritability
  • Decrease in job performance
  • Anxiety or depression

Please note: Abridged version.
Full version available from Mi-tec Medical Publishing 03 98901766

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