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Oral Sleep Appliances

sleep appliance drawing

Like sports mouth protectors, oral sleep appliances are worn during sleep to prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat. This allows the airway to stay open during sleep. The appliances promote adequate air intake and help to provide normal sleep in people who snore and have sleep apnea. Oral appliances can be used alone or in conjunction with other means of therapy such as continuous positive air pressure (CPAP).

Types of Sleep Apnea Oral Appliances

Currently, over 80 different types of sleep apnea oral devices for snoring and sleep apnea are available to treat sleep disordered breathing. At first glance, this number appears overwhelming but on close examination each of the appliances falls basically into one of two categories and the diverse variety is simply a variation of a few major themes. Oral appliances can be classified by mode of action or design variation.

Tongue Retaining Appliances

Tongue Retaining appliance photo

There are very few tongue retaining devices available, but they have been well studied and shown to be effective in many patients. Tongue retainers function by directly holding the tongue in a forward position by means of a suction bulb that holds the tongue. When the tongue is in a forward position, the back of the tongue does not collapse during sleep and obstruct the airway in the throat. The tongue retaining appliances are used primarily for patients with few or no remaining teeth.

Mandibular Repositioning Oral Appliances

Mandibular repositioning appliances are by far the most numerous type on the market. They all function to reposition and maintain the lower jaw (mandible) in a protruded position during sleep. It is felt that this serves to open the airway by indirectly pulling the tongue forward since the tongue is attached to the lower jaw, and stimulating activity of the muscles in the tongue, thus making it more rigid. It also holds the lower jaw and other structures in a stable position. Thin shells are placed over the upper and lower teeth and a device is incorporated that will pull the lower jaw forward as far as necessary to open the airway. Some devices will have the forward jaw position built into the design of the appliance. Most of the appliances will allow for the titration or position adjustment to fine tune the best jaw position to open the airway to allow for proper breathing, yet not over strain the jaw joints, muscles, and teeth. The custom made appliances allow for best fit and function. Below are some examples of mandibular repositioning oral appliances used by Sleep Dentist Arizona.

Respire SomnoMed EMA Herbst appliance photo