For years, medicine approached sleep apnea treatment as if there were only two options: CPAP or surgery. Many people find a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine uncomfortable and inconvenient, and surgery poses serious risks, especially for sleep apnea sufferers. However, there is a more comfortable, more convenient, and safer option for to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): oral appliance therapy. Just slip in the appliance—similar to a mouth guard—before going to sleep, and it will reduce or eliminate your apnea episodes. Your regular health insurance even covers it.

This page contains background information on appliance therapy, but the best way to find out if it’s right for you is to talk to sleep apnea expert Dr. Melissa Sheets in Omaha, Nebraska. Please call (402) 493-4175 or book an appointment.

adult woman sleeping peacefully

How an Oral Sleep Appliance Treats Sleep Apnea

Oral appliances that are custom fit by a sleep apnea dentist can be used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, your airway collapses during sleep. This is because when you sleep, gravity pulls down on your airway, and the muscles that normally hold it open are relaxed.

An oral appliance ensures your airway gets the support it needs to stay open. The tissue of your throat basically hangs on your jaw, and the most common type of dental sleep appliance ensures your jaw stays in a position that will hold your airway open. In some cases, your tongue might be the issue, and an oral appliance might keep your tongue in a forward position. Other oral appliances might try to reshape your airway to create enough space so that your airway stays open more easily.

Types of Oral Appliances

Oral appliances come in many styles, which can help you find one that is right for your sleep apnea and feels comfortable to you. However, it’s important to understand that not all types of oral appliances have documented effectiveness. Insurance companies are also less likely to cover oral appliances that don’t have sufficient clinical support.

Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs)

MADs are also known as Mandibular advancement splints (MASs) and Mandibular Repositioning Appliances (MRAs).  They work by moving your jaw forward so that it provides better support to the soft tissues of the airway. Here are some of the more popular types of MADs:

SomnoMed – A very effective sleep apnea device for people with a large jaw arch, the SomnoMed can withstand the pressure of teeth clenching and grinding at night (sleep bruxism). It can treat both snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

TAP 3 – The Thornton Adjustable Positioner (TAP) can treat both sleep apnea and snoring.

Adjustable Herbst – This appliance can increase the anterior, posterior, and vertical spacing of the jaw. This makes it especially effective for helping patients when a collapsing soft palate contributes to sleep apnea. Patients appreciate its durability and compact design.

ProSomnus – With a smaller profile, ProSomnus devices are comfortable and easy to use with few side effects. This improves compliance and leads many patients to report better outcomes and experiences.

SomnoDent Oral Appliance

Hybrid Devices

Hybrid devices work as both an oral appliance and a CPAP mask. The most common one we utilize is the TAP-PAP. By repositioning the jaw, the TAP-PAP can make CPAP effective at a lower pressure, which can reduce side effects. In addition, the TAP-PAP helps secure the CPAP mask. This means that you can move around at night without dislodging the device. Plus, there are no straps, which means greater comfort and less skin irritation.

Tap Prosomnus oral appliance

Benefits of Oral Appliances

Compared to more traditional methods of sleep apnea treatment, oral appliances have many benefits, including:

  • Increased comfort
  • No skin irritation
  • No noisy pump
  • Easy to transport
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to use
  • Less risk of dry mouth or nasal irritation
  • No increased risk of colds or infection
  • No surgical risk
  • No recovery time
  • Can be used with CPAP

Because of these benefits, most people have an easier time complying with oral appliance therapy than with CPAP.

Is Your Oral Appliance Covered by Insurance?

In most cases, oral appliance therapy is covered by insurance, but in order to be covered, your testing, diagnosis, and appliance must meet certain standards. Dr. Melissa Sheets has experience referring patients for sleep apnea tests and providing treatment once you have had an appropriate diagnosis. Our team can look at your coverage and make sure you are given options that comply with your insurance company’s requirements.

We will determine whether your provider:

  • Recognizes at-home sleep tests
  • Requires certain levels of apnea or hypopnea for coverage
  • Covers oral appliances for your level of sleep apnea
  • Covers all types of oral appliances

We will make sure you understand your coverage before proceeding with testing and treatment.

Get Oral Appliance Therapy in Omaha

To talk to Dr. Melissa Sheets in Omaha about your oral sleep appliance options, please call (402) 493-4175 or email us for an appointment.