Do Oral Appliances Really Work for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

In a word, yes. But you’d expect us to say that, wouldn’t you? After all, our office specializes in treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with oral appliance therapy.

But it’s also something that’s been consistently backed up by science, confirming that CPAP is no longer the only option for treating apnea – much to the happiness of those who have suffered from this life-threatening condition but just can’t tolerate CPAP.

One of the newest studies was published just this past month in the British Dental Journal.

The study involved 52 adults who had been diagnosed with mild to moderate OSA or had severe OSA but were CPAP-intolerant. Each also exhibited at least two symptoms of apnea, no signs of TMJ troubles, and satisfactory oral health (to ensure appliance stability).

Each was fitted with a mandibular repositioning appliance – a device that holds the jaw in a more optimal forward position to keep the airway open.

At the beginning of the study and again after two months of appliance therapy, OSA-related data was collected from each patient. This included Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) and oxygen desaturation index (ODI) scores. Epworth scores are a common measure of OSA risk (you can take the test for yourself here), while ODI is considered a good predictor of AHI scores, which measure how many stop-breathing events occur during each hour of sleep. (An AHI over 5 is considered a sign of sleep apnea.)

Crunching the before and after numbers, the research team found that with oral appliance therapy, “there was a statistically significant reduction in ODI and ESS.” ODI scores dropped from 10.68 to 6.58, while Epworth scores improved from 9.46 to 6.02

The results of this audit show that a custom-made appliance can be an effective and well-tolerated treatment option for the type of patients included in this audit with mild to moderate OSA and those who refuse or cannot tolerate CPAP.

The authors went on to recommend that oral appliance therapy should be considered by doctors for treatment of adults with mild to moderate OSA, “as well as those who cannot tolerate CPAP treatment. This recommendation aligns with the published guidance from the [American Academy of Sleep Medicine].”

They went on to underscore a fact that we regularly see among patients who come to us for CPAP alternatives and opt for oral appliance therapy:

Better management of OSA has a positive impact on life and probably reduces the need for more long-term care. The general consensus is that the benefits outweigh the risk if a qualified dentist provides the treatment with the appropriate knowledge, technical skills, and judgment to assess the benefit versus the risk for everyone.

If you have any question as to whether our clinic’s founder, Dr. Ann Abdulla, is qualified, just take a moment to head over to her bio for an overview of the special training she’s pursued to become one of Orange County’s experts in treating sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy.

Then give us a call or send us a message to schedule a consultation so you can get the help you or a loved one need to sleep better and get on the path to better whole body health.

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(949) 420-9669

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