Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Oral Appliance Therapy - Overview

Oral appliance therapy is a treatment for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. It involves wearing a removable oral appliance in your mouth as you sleep. The device fits much like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer.

An oral appliance prevents your airway from collapsing by either holding the tongue or supporting the jaw in a forward position. You must be custom fitted for an oral appliance in order for it to be effective. Over-the-counter devices are not recommended as a treatment option for snoring or obstructive sleep apnea.

Members of the sleep team collaborate to provide you with oral appliance therapy. The board certified sleep medicine physician must diagnose obstructive sleep apnea using a sleep study. Once you are diagnosed, a dental sleep medicine specialist can fit you with an oral appliance. These dentists must have special training in treating sleep apnea.

The most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. But some patients prefer an oral appliance because it is small, portable and easy to use. Oral appliance therapy is most helpful for people with less severe sleep apnea.    

Types of oral appliances

There are a variety of oral appliances that can treat obstructive sleep apnea. Each device may differ in appearance. Most devices fall under one of the two following types:

Mandibular repositioning devices – These oral appliances reposition your lower jaw forward and down slightly to keep your airway open while you sleep. Mandibular repositioning devices are the most widely used oral appliances.

Tongue retaining devices – These oral appliances hold your tongue in place to keep your airway open.

Updated April 28, 2014

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