CPAP vs Oral Dental Device Therapy

CPAP vs Oral Dental Device Therapy

Recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, oral devices – also called oral appliances – can be used for the treatment of mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  The question of which treatment may be better for someone with sleep apnea depends on a number of factors, one of the greatest being their compliance with the treatment.  If a patient is currently using CPAP successfully, then there may be no need to search for an alternative.

However, if a patient is not using their prescribed CPAP, dentists who have a specialty in dental sleep are in the prime position to recommend another therapy.  Some of the physicians that you’ll work with may not even be aware of oral devices therapy as an alternative to CPAP, but sharing this publication from AASM is a good starting point.  Ultimately, the best device is going to be the one that patients will actually use as there are many dangers to leaving sleep apnea untreated.

Major Differences Between CPAP and Oral Devices

CPAPOral Devices
How it worksUses air pressure through a tube and mask worn over the nose or mouth to force air through the obstructionPhysically moves the lower jaw forward, repositions the structures forming the airway to open the obstruction
ReimbursementYes, through medical insuranceYes, through medical insurance
TravelDifficult, stored in large case. Must travel with appropriate electrical cords and adapters. Typically have to take as carry-on baggage as the machine is not durableEasy, can be stored in a small retainer case and carried in a purse or briefcase
Requires ElectricityYesNo
ComfortMay be uncomfortable, can also cause skin discomfort91% of patients report that SomnoDent oral devices are comfortable
Makes NoiseYesNo
Can open mouth, talk or drink while wearingNoYes

Sleep Apnea Treatments: CPAP vs Oral Device Therapy 

There is a very big difference between CPAP and oral device therapy, and it can be summed up in a single word: comfort. Both products allow a mild-to-moreate OSA patient to breathe while asleep.

When CPAP was first discovered as a solution for sleep apnea, the most advanced medical technique at the time was to perform a tracheotomy, or cutting a hole in the neck exposing the airway. This treatment of course caused a lot of trouble for the people who had it performed. Constant worry that something could get into the hole in the patient’s neck and the high rate of infections and complications from surgery made this an undesirable procedure. The introduction of CPAP was a welcome sight for those who thought a tracheotomy was too risky. Unfortunately, for CPAP to work the patient needs to wear a mask while they sleep that is hooked-up to a machine that pumps air into their mouth and nose. The mask is not very comfortable and the hoses and wires can be very cumbersome to manage while sleeping. The compliance rate for CPAP users, or those who are prescribed CPAP and actually use it every night, is only 50 percent.


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