Many people suffer from an undiagnosed sleep disorder. A sleep disorder occurs when there is a blockage that prevents oxygen from moving through the nose and into the circulatory system. This blockage will occur while we are sleeping when our soft tissue relaxes and collapses to a point where air cannot pass though anymore. Depending on the severity of the blockage, an oral appliance or CPAP machine are two treatment options to open the blockage and restore proper oxygen flow. The question is which treatment option is superior to the other?
The fact is everybody is different. Therefore, everyone has different needs. Moderate to severe sleep apnea will often need to be treated with a CPAP machine, or continuous positive airway pressure therapy. If sleep apnea is severe enough, it may not be able to be treated with an oral appliance alone. In fact, wearing an oral appliance can prove to be more harmful if the airway is collapsing too much.
However, less severe sleep apnea cases can be treated with an oral appliance. A specialized oral appliance will be costume fitted to a person’s teeth in a fashion that draws the lower jaw forward. By holding the jaw slightly forward, the airway is opened to a degree that resolves light snoring and airway collapse. Many people prefer to use, or at least attempt an oral appliance as opposed to a CPAP machine. Many people report a CPAP machine will cause an uncomfortable dry mouth, bloating, and claustrophobia. People tend to avoid using a CPAP for its louder noise and difficulty transporting. Utilizing an oral appliance solves these issues and allows the user to sleep more comfortably on their side or stomach as opposed to be restricted to sleeping only on their back. Overall, an oral appliance gives more freedom and comfort as opposed to a CPAP.
Some people try to obtain better sleep by only wearing an oral appliance, but using both an oral appliance and CPAP machine can result in a more favorable outcome. Bruxism, or teeth grinding, may still occur even when using a CPAP. In this case, wearing an appliance will provide a barrier between the teeth and will protect against wearing of the tooth enamel. As mentioned earlier, the oral appliance will position the airway in a more favorable position by bringing the lower jaw forward, which will also reinforce the CPAP machine.