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For the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, there is another non-surgical treatment – oral appliances. These devices are often accepted by patients when continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is not tolerated and is usually covered by insurance companies.
An oral appliance is similar to an orthodontic retainer except it is not used to move the teeth. It works by changing the way the lower jaw meets the upper jaw during sleep. When the appliance is worn, the lower jaw is moved forward. This creates more space at the back of the tongue and throat which keeps the airway open.
Oral appliances are most successful in treating mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. They can also be used when snoring is present without apnea. In most cases the snoring is substantially reduced or eliminated altogether. Oral appliances are small, easy to wear and weigh only a couple of ounces. After a few weeks most patients are completely comfortable with the appliance.
To be fitted for an oral appliance, you must visit a specially trained dentist, experienced in the use of oral appliances. When the lower jaw sits in a different position during sleep, there is a risk of creating discomfort in the temporomandibular joint or “TMJ”. An experienced dentist who treats “TMJ” and facial pain conditions can minimize or eliminate this problem