Home » Patients » Oral Appliance Therapy
October 2020 |  Reviewed by:  Reeba Mathew, MD and Seema Khosla, MD

What is oral appliance therapy?

Oral appliance therapy is a treatment for snoring and sleep apnea. It involves wearing a removable oral appliance in your mouth when 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 for it to work properly. Over-the-counter devices are not recommended as a treatment option for snoring or sleep apnea.

The sleep team at an accredited sleep center will work with you to provide you with oral appliance therapy. First, a sleep doctor must diagnose you with sleep apnea using a sleep study or home sleep apnea test. Once you are diagnosed, a dentist can fit you with an oral appliance. Dentists that work with the sleep team have special education in treating sleep apnea.

The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy. Some patients prefer an oral appliance because it is small, portable and easy to use. Oral appliance therapy is most helpful in people with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

What are the types of oral appliances?

There are a variety of oral appliances that can treat sleep apnea. Devices may look different. Most fall into one of two types:

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

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

What are the benefits of oral appliance therapy?

For mild to moderate sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy offers many of the same health benefits as CPAP. By treating your sleep apnea, you can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. You will also improve your daytime alertness, concentration and emotional health.

The additional benefits of oral appliance therapy include:

<