Sleep Apnea Appliances

Smiling male dentist holding a dental model

Sleep apnea is a serious, sometimes fatal medical disorder that affects around 10% of American men over the age of 40, and 6% of American women of the same age.  Sleep apnea sufferers completely stop breathing during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times in a single night.  Normal breathing ceases because the airway becomes obstructed, causing a serious reduction of airflow to the lungs.

There are a number of dental devices that can be used to alleviate this condition. The goal of most of these devices is to separate the jaws and push them forward slightly.  This slight repositioning opens up the airway, and allows oxygen to flow freely again.  Wearers of sleep apnea dental devices report that they stop loud snoring, feel more rested in the daytime, and are much more comfortable going to sleep.  Sleep apnea appliances work best on patients who are not significantly overweight. They offer a viable alternative to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).

Sleep apnea appliances fall into two categories: fixed and adjustable.  Here are brief descriptions of some commonly used sleep apnea dental appliances:

TAP® 3 (Thornton Adjustable Positioner)

The TAP® 3 is the smallest, most comfortable member of the TAP family.  It is a two-part custom-created sleep apnea appliance that fits over the teeth in much the same way as a sports mouthguard.  The TAP® 3 projects the jaw forward to prevent the tongue and soft tissues from impeding the airway.  The lower jaw positioner is adjustable, which means that it can be altered to suit the comfort level of the wearer.  The TAP® 3 appliance can accommodate the three main types of malocclusion, and allows the lips to fully close.

OASYS Appliance

The OASYS appliance is designed to move the base of the tongue toward the front of the mouth by gently repositioning the jawbone (mandible).  This shift opens the oropharynx and strengthens the upper airway.  An extension of the upper shield projects toward the nose, creating a larger nasal opening and less resistance to normal airflow.  This adjustable appliance is comfortable to wear and extremely patient friendly.

KlearwayTM Appliance

The KlearwayTM Appliance is generally used to alleviate obstructive sleep disorder and eliminate snoring.  The patient or dentist can project the jaw forwards in increments of .25mm at a time.  This ensures maximum comfort for the sleeper.  The KlearwayTM appliance is made from VariflexTM heat softening acrylic, which makes it easier to insert.  Running warm water over the appliance makes it pliable, but once placed in the desired position, the acrylic hardens again.

Herbst Telescopic Appliance

The Herbst appliance is held in the mouth by clasps and friction grips.  It is made of acrylic, and contains adjustable metal wiring.  The advantage of this appliance is that the wearer is able to move vertically and laterally without dislodging the appliance.  The Herbst appliance is usually used in mild and moderate cases of sleep apnea, and can also alleviate loud snoring effectively.

If you have questions or concerns about sleep apnea appliances, please ask your dentist.

Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

Sleep is crucial to maintaining good health, but many people tolerate restless nights because they are used to it. Sleep apnea is a common condition that interrupts nighttime breathing, causing people to toss and turn. If you feel exhausted during the day, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that blocks your airway sporadically during the night, interrupting your sleep. Snoring and gasping are two symptoms, but there may be other signs that harder to diagnose. Having a professional evaluate your condition can help you get the treatment you need. Individuals with sleep apnea generally have one of two types; Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA).

OSA can be caused by inherited issues like an abnormally small throat, but weight and age also contribute to the disorder. CSA is a neurological issue, where the brain is not communicating correctly with breathing muscles and tissues. Treating sleep apnea is a priority because the problem has serious implications for your general health. Research suggests that adequate amounts of sleep promote optimal heart and mental health, while a lack of rest puts additional stress on the cardiovascular system and increases your stress levels exponentially. The most immediate issue, however, is how you aren’t free to enjoy daily life.

How is Sleep Apnea Treated?

Since sleep apnea is caused by a collapsing or improperly working airway muscles, patients need instruments to keep them open throughout the night. Oral appliances keep the jaws positioned in a way that helps you breathe easier. These devices will restore your night’s sleep, especially in patients experiencing OSA, or mild CSA. Some of the typical sleep apnea appliances used include:

• TAP®3 (Adjustable)


• Klearway™

• Herbst Telescopic Appliance

How Does a Sleep Apnea Oral Appliance Work?

Oral appliances help sleep apnea patients by positioning the jaw in a way that increases the size of the airway, which helps prevent sleep apnea and snoring. Other benefits include:

How Do I Know if an Oral Appliance is Right for Me?

Patients who suffer from sleep apnea often undergo a sleep study from a physician who specializes in sleep disorders. In some cases, these physicians will prescribe a CPAP machine, and for others, they will recommend an oral device. Although a physician typically determines which form of therapy is best, a dental professional is qualified to carry out and monitor the treatment plan.

What if I Don’t Qualify for a Sleep Apnea Appliance?

When apnea conditions are severe, a CPAP machine can help you breathe properly throughout the night. This device maintains a consistent amount of airflow through the throat and nose, keeping tissues out of the way. The CPAP mask and constant air pressure allow you to inhale and exhale normally.

While physicians often recommend CPAP therapy, many patients aren’t suitable candidates for the treatment due to dry nasal passages and claustrophobia, among many other issues. For these candidates, dental appliance therapy can alleviate their concerns. If you have already tried a CPAP machine and did not achieve the desired results, your dentist can review your sleep study and give you an oral appliance that will meet your needs.

Improve Your Health & Your Quality of Life

The right sleep apnea treatment can eliminate morning headaches, sleepy afternoons, and snoring at night. More importantly, it can help those who stop breathing while they sleep – a serious condition that can be dangerous. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, your physician or your dentist can help you get the right treatment and a good night’s sleep.