Frequently Asked Questions
Note: Always consult a qualified sleep physician to determine if you are a good
candidate for oral appliance therapy.
What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?
What are the common signs and risk
factors of obstructive sleep apnea?
How do I know if I have obstructive sleep apnea?
How is snoring distinguished from obstructive
What is an oral appliance?
What is the difference between CPAP and
oral appliance therapy?
Are oral appliances comfortable to wear?
What are the benefits of
oral appliance therapy over other treatment methods?
are the steps to obtain an oral appliance?
Can any dentist provide
oral appliance therapy/practice dental sleep medicine?
What is the role of the dentist in the treatment
How are oral appliances made and fitted?
Q. What is
obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?
A. OSA is a chronic condition that occurs when your muscles relax during sleep, allowing soft tissue to
collapse and block the airway. This can cause you to stop breathing hundreds of times per night for anywhere from a
few seconds to more than a minute. Repeated breathing pauses may result in reduced oxygen levels and
disturbances in sleep.
Q. What are the common signs and
risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea?
A. OSA is more common in men, but it can occur in women too. Having excess body weight, a narrow
airway, or misaligned jaw can increase the risk of OSA. Snoring, choking sounds while sleeping, intermittent
snoring with pauses, excessive daytime sleepiness, awakenings with gasping, poor memory, irritability, and morning
headaches may be signs of OSA. You should schedule a visit with your physician to discuss these
Q. How do I
know if I have obstructive sleep
A. After discussing your symptoms, your physician or a board-certified sleep medicine physician will
complete a sleep evaluation and may schedule an overnight sleep study at a sleep facility or a home sleep apnea
test. The physician will interpret the data from your sleep study to make a diagnosis.
Q. How is
snoring distinguished from obstructive
A. Snoring is a major symptom of OSA, so all cases of snoring should be evaluated by a physician to
determine whether or not you have OSA.
Q. What is an oral appliance?
A. An oral appliance is a custom-fit,
mouth-guard-like device worn only while you sleep. It keeps your airway open and unobstructed by supporting your
jaw in a forward position to keep the upper airway from collapsing and blocking the airway.
Q. What is the
difference between CPAP and oral appliance therapy?
A. CPAP therapy involves wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth and is connected to a
tube that allows air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep. Oral appliance therapy consists of wearing a
custom-fit mouth-guard during sleep to support the jaw in a forward position to help
maintain an open airway.
Q. Are oral appliances
comfortable to wear?
A. Many patients consider an oral appliance to be more comfortable to wear than a
CPAP mask. Oral appliances are custom-made to fit your mouth and made of lightweight material. To
enhance the effectiveness of your oral appliance, follow-up visits with your dentist will be needed to
ensure the optimal fit of the oral appliance. The oral appliance will be adjusted over time to ensure
maximum comfort and effectiveness.
Q. What are the benefits of oral appliance therapy over other
A. Oral appliance therapy is an effective, non-invasive treatment that fits
easily into your lifestyle. Oral appliances are comfortable, quiet, portable, easy to wear, convenient for
travel and easy to care for. Additionally, oral appliances do not restrict movements while sleeping, work
with any patient sleeping positions, can be used for patients that are CPAP intolerant, do not require
electricity, and require no consumable parts to replace.
I have decided with my physician that an oral appliance is the best treatment for me,
are the steps to obtain one?
A. Your physician will write a prescription for you to receive a
custom-made oral appliance. A dentist, qualified in dental sleep medicine, will take impressions of
your teeth to build a model. This model will be sent to a dental lab where the oral appliance is
Q. Can any
oral appliance therapy/practice dental sleep medicine?
A. Education in dental sleep medicine is required for dentists to provide safe, quality care to patients
using oral appliance therapy for sleep-related breathing disorders. At minimum, dentists should meet the educational
requirements defined by the AADSM to be a “Qualified Dentist” in dental sleep medicine. To find a qualified
dentist near you, visit the AADSM’s website.
Q. What is the role
of the dentist in the treatment of OSA?
A. Dentists should screen patients for OSA using questionnaires and evaluating the airway and then
refer the patient to a physician for an evaluation. Since OSA is a medical condition, dentists should not diagnose
sleep disorders. If oral appliance therapy is determined by the physician and patient to be the most appropriate
treatment option, the physician will write a prescription for an oral appliance and refer the patient to a
qualified dentist who will provide and monitor oral appliance therapy as part of a treatment team with the
physician. The qualified dentist will monitor and treat potential side effects of oral appliance therapy and
provide follow-up to ensure the optimal fit of the oral appliance. Patients should return to their physician to
confirm the treatment efficacy of oral appliance.
Q. How are oral appliances made
A. Oral appliances are customized using digital or physical impressions and models of your teeth. These
models are sent to a dental lab where the oral appliances are made. Once the oral appliance is ready, you will
return to your dentist's office for a fitting. Your dentist will adjust the appliance to maximize its comfort and
effectiveness. Your dentist will then teach you how to clean and maintain the oral appliance. A sleep study may then
be scheduled by your physician to verify treatment success.
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