Life with an Oral Appliance
"Life with an oral appliance for sleep apnea is great!”
We are continually hearing how life with an oral appliance for obstructive sleep apnea has helped patient’s lives and relationships.
“I feel great! I can travel again without my cumbersome CPAP and the oral appliance fits in my pocket. I’m not overstating when I say ‘the oral appliance has changed my life.’ I absolutely recommend this treatment.” – Don, an oral appliance user and CPAP intolerant patient
“The oral appliance has helped me sleep better, and I’m so grateful for the care the dental office has given me. My energy level has doubled.” – CJ, an oral appliance user and CPAP intolerant patient
What to Expect with an Oral Appliance
When the snoring and tiredness have been resolved and the in-home or laboratory sleep study shows good improvement, you will be referred back to your physician for a final evaluation, or an evaluation for any additional sleep studies and follow-up.
Ultimately, we will follow your progress on a twice or once per year basis to ensure adequate treatment and to monitor any possible side effects.
Like CPAP, oral appliance therapy for snoring and sleep apnea is not a cure. The dental device must be worn every night for it to be effective. Your progress with the oral appliance should be monitored over time to ensure that the appliance continues to do its job in providing relief of snoring and sleep apnea and to ensure that you remain symptom-free.
The dental team with your sleep doctor will carefully follow and guide your progress throughout your treatment. You will be seen in the office several times to ensure acceptance, comfort, and effectiveness of the therapy. Instructions will be given on proper adjustment of the appliance and any areas of discomfort will be addressed. The objective will be to resolve the snoring and daytime tiredness through gently and gradually re-positioning the lower jaw. Once active therapy is completed, you will be reevaluated on a six month or one year visit depending on your individual case.
Caring for your Oral Appliance
It’s important that you follow manufacturer’s instructions for your appliance. For general oral appliance care, we have provided these tips. Each morning, simply brush it with a soft bristle toothbrush.
Rinse it well and allow it to sit in its case all day with the top open. We will provide you with specific instructions once your device is delivered
Dogs love to chew on oral appliances and think it’s a new chew toy. Be sure it is up, out of the way, where no curious dogs can chew on it! Also, avoid extremes of temperature, especially heat, since the appliance may distort. Do not leave the appliance in direct sunlight. Examine your appliance frequently and call the office if you observe any broken areas.
Often, patients find that they are unable to close their teeth completely in the morning immediately after removing the appliance. This is normal and is due to a temporary jaw joint change. This will generally resolve within 10 or 20 minutes on its own as the joint drifts back into its normal position.
Jaw exercises are helpful to re-establish joint position and good tooth contact. This can be accomplished by clenching the teeth together and holding for several seconds and then releasing and then repeating the clench/release for a minute or so. Or, you may clench/release on the soft plastic exercise tabs that we provided to you.
Another method is to chew gum while taking a hot shower. Chew and shower for about 10 minutes or until teeth close properly and comfortably.
Possible Side Effects
Most of the side effects encountered during appliance use are minor and temporary. They may include tenderness to teeth, muscles, and joints. Dry mouth and increased salivation may also be noticed in some cases. In addition, teeth may not meet properly for 10 to 20 minutes after first removing the appliance after a night’s use. The office will work with you to manage these occurrences and minimize any problems.
It should be noted that in some patients, a permanent bite change will occur over the years due to a small, permanent change in jaw joint position and/or minor tooth movements due to the pressures placed by the appliance each night.
It is critically important to keep up with prescribed evaluation visits, allowing your dentist to monitor any possible changes in your bite. They are most easily managed if discovered in the early stages rather than trying to correct any issues that have arisen over time.