For many years, CPAP therapy has been the go-to treatment for sleep apnea. Yes, the machines are effective. However, they have some significant drawbacks — not the least of which is the fact that recently, millions of people were affected by a widespread recall on machines made by Philips Respironics. If any of your patients were affected by the recall, you may be able to help them by offering your services as a sleep dentist who provides oral appliance therapy. Below, you’ll find a basic introduction to oral appliances and a list of some of the ways in which they are better than CPAP machines.
What Is an Oral Appliance?
An oral sleep appliance shifts the jaw slightly forward, thereby keeping the airway open at night and preventing the pauses in breathing that characterize obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It looks similar to other devices that you probably already offer, such as mouthguards and nightguards for bruxism. Most providers suggest an oral appliance for cases of mild to moderate OSA. However, there are some who have had success in addressing even severe cases.
Oral Appliances vs. CPAP
Oral appliances offer some significant advantages over CPAP machines, including:
No Harmful Chemicals
The Philips Respironics recall stemmed from the fact that chemicals in their CPAP machines could break down and contribute to long-term health issues. Oral appliances are usually made out of safe plastic materials, so the risk of something similar happening with them is next to nothing.
Do your patients like to travel? If they do, they probably dislike the idea of taking their CPAP machine along with them, especially if they have to haul it overseas and worry about things like voltage adapters foreign customs. An oral appliance is small and easy to fit in a carry-on suitcase. Plus, it doesn’t have any electrical components that could cause inconvenience during trips to other countries.
The sounds made by a CPAP machine are annoying to many patients. An oral appliance is completely silent, which can help both patients and their partners rest easier night after night.
Keeping a CPAP machine sanitary may require a lot of time and diligence. Fortunately, maintaining an oral appliance is very easy; all it requires is a basic daily cleaning routine. There are no hoses to clean and no filters to replace.
Studies have shown that in general, patients prefer oral appliances over CPAP therapy. Given that CPAP compliance is relatively low, more and more providers are looking for an alternative treatment that appeals to their patients. For many of those patients, an oral appliance may be easiest OSA therapy to adhere to.
The recent CPAP recall has made countless dentists and patients alike think about alternative treatments. Why not learn more about how you can offer oral appliance therapy?
Meet the Author
Dr. Kent Smith is President of the American Sleep Breathing Academy, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. As an experienced sleep dentist, he offers in-depth seminars to help his peers incorporate OSA diagnosis and treatment into their practice. To learn more about him and the training he offers, contact the 21st Century Sleep Seminars team at 817-318-6352.