About 10% of men over the age of 40 and 6% of women over the age of 40 suffer from sleep apnea, a serious, sometimes fatal medical condition. Patients with sleep apnea stop breathing completely during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during a single night. There is a severe reduction in the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs when the airway becomes blocked, resulting in the cessation of normal breathing.

In order to alleviate the symptoms of this condition, a number of dental devices can be used. Most of these devices are designed with the purpose of separating the jaws and pushing them forward a little bit. As a result of this slight repositioning, the airway is opened up again and oxygen can once again flow freely into the lungs. It is reported that sleep apnea patients who wear sleep apnea dental devices report that they are able to stop loud snoring, feel more rested during the daytime, and sleep better at night. Sleep apnea appliances are best suited to people who are not significantly overweight. As an alternative to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), they are a viable option.

There are two types of sleep apnea appliances: fixed and adjustable. A brief description of some of the most commonly used sleep apnea dental appliances is provided below:

TAP® 3 (Thornton Adjustable Positioner)

Among the members of the TAP family, the TAP 3 is the smallest and most comfortable.  It is a two-part custom-made sleep apnea appliance which fits over the teeth in much the same way as a sports mouthguard and is designed to prevent sleep apnea from occurring.  With the TAP® 3, the jaw is pushed forward in order to prevent the tongue and soft tissues from obstructing the airway.  It is important to note that the lower jaw positioner is adjustable, so it can be adjusted depending on the comfort level of the person wearing it.  In addition to being able to accommodate the three main types of malocclusions, the TAP® 3 appliance allows the lips to close completely.

KlearwayTM Appliance

KlearwayTM Appliances are commonly used to treat obstructive sleep apnea and eliminate snoring.  It is possible for the patient or dentist to project the jaw forward in increments of .25mm at a time.  In this way, the sleeper is assured of maximum comfort.  The KlearwayTM appliance is constructed from VariflexTM heat softening acrylic, which makes it easier to insert.  After running warm water over the appliance, the acrylic becomes pliable, but once the appliance has been placed in the desired position, it hardens again.

Herbst Telescopic Appliance

A clasp and friction grip secure the Herbst appliance in the mouth.  It is constructed from acrylic and contains metal wiring that can be adjusted.  This appliance has the advantage of allowing the wearer to move vertically and laterally without dislodging it.  In mild and moderate cases of sleep apnea, the Herbst appliance can be used effectively to alleviate loud snoring as well as mild symptoms of sleep apnea.

OASYS Appliance

By gently repositioning the jawbone (mandible), the OASYS appliance is designed to move the base of the tongue toward the front of the mouth.  This shift opens the oropharynx and strengthens the upper airway as a result of this shift.  As a result of an extension of the upper shield, there is an increased opening in the nose, allowing normal airflow to pass more freely.  In addition to being comfortable to wear, this adjustable appliance is extremely patient friendly.

Please consult your dentist if you have any questions or concerns regarding sleep apnea appliances.

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