CPAP vs. Oral Appliance Therapy
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is blocked, often due to the presence of excess tissue in the back of the throat (uvula and soft palate) and a large tongue. Enlarged tonsils can also cause a blockage. The goal of any treatment for sleep apnea is to alleviate obstructions and open up normal breathing patterns. Two leading treatments are continuous positive airway pressure therapy and oral appliance therapy.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy is the most common form of treatment. It involves wearing a mask that is connected to a pump. As a patient sleeps, air is pumped into the nasal passages, providing a consistent flow of air that keeps the airways open. While it is considered a safe and effective treatment option, CPAP therapy has some considerable downsides:
- Discomfort and irritation from the mask
- Restricted movement during sleep
- Noise disturbance from the apparatus
Unfortunately many patients discontinue CPAP therapy due to the inconvenience of the mask and often feel that the only other solution that might help is surgery.
Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) is a relatively new treatment that is becoming popular lately with patients who are tired of CPAP. Dr. Steven Davidowitz is an expert in this approach, which involves the use of a custom-fitted oral appliance. Comparable in feel to a mouth guard or retainer, oral appliances are designed to gently reposition the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula. By preventing the collapse of tissue in the back of the throat, oral appliances keep the airways clear and help regulate breathing during sleep.