Unmasking Sleep Apnea Treatments: What to Try If CPAP Doesn’t Work for You

Your piercing, chainsaw snore may be a favourite family joke – but it should also be a figurative wake-up call.

Habitual, loud snoring is a key symptom of sleep apnea, a disease that affects 12-18 million Americans and increases the risk of health problems including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction and depression.

You’ve likely heard of the “gold standard” for sleep apnea treatment, a machine with a running motor, tubing and a face mask called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. However, for many sleep apnea sufferers, relief lies far from the mask in an effective alternative treatment called oral appliance therapy.

Oral appliance therapy uses a “mouth-guard” like device worn only during sleep to hold your jaw forward and open your airway. Pioneered by dentists, oral appliance therapy began its surge into sleep apnea treatment plans in the early 1990s. Now, more than 20 years later, a growing mass of research is proving that oral appliances are an effective alternative to CPAP in treating many people with sleep apnea, and that patients are more likely to use oral appliances, even seven days a week, to get a good night’s rest.

What does oral appliance therapy offer the sleepless snorer?

  • Comfort – Sleeping with a CPAP machine can prove difficult. According to the AADSM, up to 50 percent of sleep apnea patients do not comply with or tolerate CPAP. Oral appliance therapy can help unmask sleep apnea. Patients like oral appliances because they are comfortable and easy to wear. They are also a more discreet treatment for those who want to change positions during sleep or snuggle their bed partner.
  • Quiet – On average, the bed partner of a snorer loses at least an hour of sleep per night, according to a study published by Mayo Clinic Proceedings. A CPAP machine may silence the snoring, but its constantly running motor might not help the bed partner sleep more soundly. Oral appliance therapy is a quieter option that can minimize the symptoms of sleep apnea, such as loud snoring, without making a peep of its own.
  • Low-maintenance – An oral appliance is easy to care for and easy to travel with. Most appliances only need to be cleaned with a toothbrush and mild soap, and all can fit discretely into a purse or briefcase.
  • Effective Treatment – Oral appliance therapy works and leaves patients healthier, rejuvenated and well rested. More than 80 oral appliances have received FDA clearance and, for those with a sleep apnea diagnosis, appliances are often covered by medical insurance plans.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea by a board-certified sleep physician and CPAP is not working for you, a custom-fitted oral appliance can be your key to better sleep and better health.