When it comes to discussing treatment for chronic snoring or possible sleep apnea, your dentist may not be the first person who springs to mind.

The knowledgeable dentists at Smile Columbia Dentistry have had extensive success treating snoring and sleep apnea with the use of oral appliances. And increasing evidence suggests oral appliance therapy may be the preferred primary treatment choice for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common and dangerous form of sleep apnea, in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops during sleep due to an obstructed airway.

man laying on his side, snoring

Oral Appliances vs. CPAP

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines have long been the most commonly prescribed treatment for OSA. CPAP provides continuous airflow during sleep via a mask connected to a circulator, and it is an effective treatment when used properly. But many patients use CPAP infrequently or abandon therapy because they find the air delivery mask uncomfortable or claustrophobic.

A recent study, the results of which were published in the April 10 issue of the Journal of Dental Sleep Medicine, examined “Efficacy versus Effectiveness in the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: CPAP and Oral Appliances.” The distinction between the efficacy and effectiveness is important when it comes to sleep apnea, because one (efficacy) focuses on how well a treatment works under ideal circumstances while the other (effectiveness) refers to how well therapy works in a “real world” setting.

The article on the research notes that CPAP has comparatively low adherence, that patients often report preferring oral appliances, and that oral devices maintain higher usage rates over the long-term. The randomized study found similar improvement in daytime sleepiness, quality of life, driving performance and blood pressure in both CPAP and oral appliances when they were used as prescribed.

While CPAP proved its efficacy, and in fact may be a better treatment option for some patients, many patients discontinue its use before it can be truly effective.

Oral Appliances, Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Oral appliances help maintain an open air passage by holding the jaw in its proper posture, helping enlarge or open the airway, and preventing tissue from collapsing and obstructing the airway. This is also how they aid in preventing snoring, either as a standalone annoyance or as a symptom of sleep apnea.

A 2015 study into the use of oral appliances to treat obstructive sleep apnea found that oral devices were “a useful treatment option for improving quality of sleep and can be considered as an alternative treatment” to CPAP in many cases. That study arrived on the heels of a joint guideline from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine that oral appliance therapy be recommended for adult patients who suffer from OSA and are intolerant of CPAP.

In a previous review of oral appliances for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, an international panel of health professionals specializing in respiratory health, dental medicine, sleep medicine and behavioral health had already recommended oral appliance therapy as the primary treatment option for snoring and many instances of obstructive sleep apnea.

Don’t let chronic snoring or sleep apnea disrupt your rest or diminish your health. The Columbia, SC, dentists at Smile Columbia dentistry can help you regain healthy sleep. Call us today at (803) 781-9090 to schedule your appointment.