Ask the Doctor: Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Q: My husband was diagnosed with sleep apnea and our doctor told us to look into oral appliance therapy. What is that?

A: Oral appliance therapy for sleep apnea has become a primary treatment modality for mild sleep apnea patients or patients who cannot tolerate CPAP (a particular type of breathing therapy). Compared to CPAP, oral appliances are easy to tolerate and easy to maintain. A physician must diagnose a patient with sleep apnea using a sleep test (polysomnograph) and write a prescription before a dentist can make an appliance for the patient. The appliance is then fabricated, delivered to the patient, and titrated (or adjusted slowly forward) until symptoms subside. A follow‐up sleep test will be necessary to determine whether the appliance is working and adjusted properly. This test is usually a device the patient can take home and wear on their hand or head. The appliance should last for around five years before needing a replacement. Patients should not try to buy over-the-counter devices—these are not adjustable or stable enough to stay in position while a person sleeps. When looking for a dentist who can fabricate an appliance for you, be sure to find one who makes quality appliances and knows how to deliver them.

Charles Hooper,

East Brainerd Dentistry

8190 E. Brainerd Rd.

Chattanooga, TN 37421