Types of Sleep Apnea Oral Appliances
Currently, over 40 different types of sleep apnea dental devices for snoring and sleep apnea are available to specially trained dentists to treat sleep disordered breathing. At first glance, this number appears overwhelming but on close examination each of the appliances falls basically into one of two categories and the diverse variety is simply a variation of a few major themes. Oral appliances can be classified by mode of action or design variation.
Tongue Retaining Appliances
There are very few tongue retaining devices available, but they have been well studied and shown to be effective in many patients. Tongue retainers function by directly holding the tongue in a forward position by means of a suction bulb that holds the tongue. When the tongue is in a forward position, the back of the tongue does not collapse during sleep and obstruct the airway in the throat.
The tongue is held in the suction bulb that protrudes from between the teeth on this cast.
Mandibular Repositioning Dental Appliances
Mandibular repositioning appliances are by far the most numerous type on the market. They all function to reposition and maintain the lower jaw (mandible) in a protruded position during sleep. It is felt that this serves to open the airway by indirectly pulling the tongue forward since the tongue is attached to the lower jaw, by stimulating activity of the muscles in the tongue and making it more rigid, and by holding the lower jaw and other structures in a stable position to prevent opening of the mouth.
Thin shells are placed over the upper and lower teeth and a device is incorporated that will pull the lower jaw forward as necessary to open the airway.
At Northern Kentucky Dental Sleep Medicine we use several different mandibular repositioning appliances as primary treatment.