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Sleep apnea can be managed through different methods. Aside from the standard CPAP machine, you can manage sleep apnea with a device known as a sleep apnea mouthpiece. This device is used treat minor to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Though it is a much cheaper alternative to CPAP and surgery for mild to moderate sleep apnea, it cannot be used to replace CPAP therapy, particularly for those who may be suffering from central sleep apnea. In addition to that, while it is cheaper than CPAP, the mouthpiece is generally far less comfortable, and many people report a high level of discomfort when using one.
How does a Sleep Apnea Mouthpiece Work?
Basically, a sleep apnea mouthpiece is usually designed to push the tissues away from the throat so that air can freely pass through. At the same time, it pushes the palate upwards and pushes the tongue forward to keep the mouth free of any obstructions. If you’re already blanching at the thought of putting something in your mouth just to open up your airways, you’re not alone. Most patients complain that the mouthpiece feels awkward and can induce the gag reflex if not placed properly. Additionally, most doctors do not recommend using mouthpieces as there exists conflicting evidence about the equipment’s efficacy.
Types of Sleep Apnea Mouthpieces
There are two types of sleep apnea mouthpieces: the tongue retainer and the mandibular repositioning appliances. The tongue retainer pushes the tongue forward through a sucking action and alters the position of the tongue. This mouthpiece is highly uncomfortable but it is more effective than the other type of mouthpiece, the mandibular repositioning appliance.
The mandibular repositioning appliance is more common and much more comfortable. However, what it makes up for in comfort, it lacks in efficacy. In addition to pushing the tongue forward, it also adjusts the position of the lower jaw in order to keep the airway open. This type of mouth is typically used to treat conditions like snoring and is generally found to be not as effective in treating sleep apnea.
How To Get a Sleep Apnea Mouthpiece
Since different people have different jaw shapes, every sleep apnea mouthpiece is unique. To get the perfect fit, you actually have to visit a dentist or orthodontist and have a fitting done. If you don’t want to do that, you could choose from the 16 models that are approved by the USFDA. While they are available in a variety of designs, you should choose the model that you are most comfortable with. The problem with mouthpieces is that they take a long time to get used to and it will be much better to go for a mouthpiece that is specifically designed for you.
Once again, you should remember that mouthpieces can only work if you have obstructive sleep apnea. If you have central sleep apnea, then a mouthpiece will do nothing to your condition. In order to receive the best possible management methods for both types of sleep apnea, your best bet will still be CPAP therapy.