For individuals suffering from mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), oral appliances have proven as effective as, and in many cases even more tolerable than, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
According to Shad Morris, DMD, a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and CEO of Premier Sleep Solutions LLC, “Research conducted over the past decade comparing oral appliances with CPAP reveals that oral appliances offer a great alternative to CPAP machines for those with mild to moderate OSA, although CPAP has been the gold standard in treating cases of severe OSA. In my experience, a substantial percentage of patients find CPAP machines to be so cumbersome and uncomfortable that they eventually refuse to use them regularly, and thus, they go untreated for this serious medical condition.”
Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, fitting and use of a specially designed oral appliance. The appliance maintains an open, unobstructed airway in the throat when worn during sleep. Custom-made oral appliances in connection with a thorough treatment plan have proven more effective than over-the-counter devices, which are not recommended as screening tools or therapeutic options.
Dentists with experience in oral appliance therapy are most familiar with the various designs of appliances and can help determine which is best suited for each patient’s specific needs. A board-certified sleep medicine physician must first provide a diagnosis and recommend the most effective treatment approach. A dentist with experience in treating OSA may then provide treatment and follow-up. Ongoing care, including short- and long-term follow-up, is an essential step in the treatment of snoring and OSA with oral appliance therapy. Follow-up care serves to assess the treatment of the sleep disorder, the condition of the appliance and the patient’s physical response to the appliance, as well as to ensure the appliance is comfortable and effective.
Shad Morris, DMD, CEO, Premier Sleep Solutions LLC
Other considerations in a well-rounded OSA treatment plan can include good sleep hygiene, positional sleep therapy, regular exercise and weight loss.
Morris added that oral appliance use has been growing since 2006, when the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) issued guidelines for the use of oral appliances. These guidelines suggest that oral appliances should be the first line of treatment for mild to moderate OSA when a patient prefers oral appliances to CPAP and for severe OSA when a patient is unable to tolerate CPAP.
Since the AASM issued these guidelines, insurance companies’ coverage for oral appliances has improved dramatically. Most insurance companies now cover the procedure, and Medicare is leading the way relative to standard of care within the industry.
For more information about oral appliances or to schedule a consultation, please contact Premier Sleep Solutions in San Antonio at 210-404-4326 or visit the company’s website at www.premiersleepsolutions.com. Premier Sleep Solutions has offices in San Antonio, Texas; Newport Beach, Calif.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Salt Lake City and St. George, Utah. The San Antonio office is located at 4242 Medical Drive, Suite 7100, San Antonio, TX 78229.