A sleep apnea mouth piece may be the perfect treatment for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, particularly if a CPAP machine or surgery is not proving effective. Consider it as an option; however, be sure you understand the potential side effects.
Sleep Apnea Mouth Piece: How it Works
Sleep apnea is caused by the blockage of the airway passages, either by the collapse of the soft tissue at the back of the mouth or the blockage of the passages by the tongue. Many people start their sleep apnea treatment with either a CPAP machine or surgery. If these are not effective, an alternative treatment is a dental mouth piece.
A mouth piece is designed to fit into the mouth and prevent the soft tissue and tongue from blocking the air passages. There are sixteen different designs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are generally developed in two different types:
- Mandibular repositioning appliances - This is the most common type of mouth piece used. It is designed to push the lower jaw (the mandible) and tongue forward. These two actions will work together to keep the airways open. Some of these mouth piece designs are also used as stop snoring mouth pieces since the clear airway also has the benefit of minimizing the sound of snoring.
- Tongue retainer - This type of mouth piece is more effective than the mandibular repositioning appliances; however, it is more difficult to get used to so it is used less often.
Selecting the Right Design
Mouth pieces are available from dentists and orthodontists. The sixteen FDA-approved designs are available in over forty models, many of which are the custom designs of individual dentists or orthodontists. Some designs work with a variety of jaw and dental structures. Other designs are very specialized and can be customized to work with certain jaw sizes or shapes.If you are considering a mouth piece as sleep apnea treatment is it important to first speak with your sleep apnea doctor and obtain their opinion on whether the mouth piece is the best treatment for your particular situation. The next step is to have your doctor and your dentist give you their recommendations on the design that will be best for your needs. They can help you find a mouth piece that will provide the amount of support you need to keep the airway open while working comfortably with your particular dental and jaw structure.
Not For Everyone
Type of Apnea
The mouth piece for sleep apnea works best for the individual with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. It is not recommended for:
- Severe obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
- Hyperventilation hypoxia
The design and functionality of the mouth piece makes it work best for individuals who have:
- Healthy teeth
- Small chin
- Jaw line parallel to the floor
As with any treatment, the sleep apnea mouth piece has the potential for side effects. A dentist or orthodontist may be able to adjust the mouth piece or help you switch to a different design which may decrease the side effects.The side effects can include:
- Jaw pain
- Jaw damage
- Tooth pain
- Tooth damage
- Sore gums
- Gum damage
- Dry mouth
- Excess saliva
- Change in the position of the teeth and jaw
Paying the Bill
Unfortunately, many insurance companies will not pay for a mouth piece since they consider it to be an experimental treatment for sleep apnea. In these cases, the patient must pay for the mouth piece out of their own pocket.Be sure to check with your insurance company as you research the possibility of using a mouth piece for sleep apnea treatment.