Although CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is recommended for severe sleep apnea (apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) of 30+), oral appliance therapy is actually a better sleep apnea treatment for many people with mild or moderate sleep apnea. While both treatments are proven to be effective at treating sleep apnea, oral appliances offer many benefits.
Less Complicated Maintenance
One of the best things about an oral appliance is that it’s easy to maintain. That’s because it’s made of only one or two pieces. Just remove and soak it daily.
CPAP machines, on the other hand, require more complicated cleaning. The machine has to be disassembled, and many of the parts have to be cleaned with soap and water, which isn’t always easy. And with more parts, a CPAP machine is likely to need more parts replaced more often. And some of the parts of designed to be disposable, such as air filters.
No Tubes and Wires
A CPAP machine has to be connected to the wall via a power cord and to your face via a tube that hooks to your CPAP mask. This can get you all tangled up if you are the kind of person who tends to move around during sleep.
But an oral appliance is fully contained in your mouth. There’s nothing to get tangled up with the bed or wrapped around your neck or anything. So you can comfortably roll over without having to worry that you’ll be tangled up.
No Smothering Sensation
One complaint many people have about CPAP is the smothering sensation. This is especially problematic if you have a full CPAP mask that covers your mouth and nose, which can cause people to experience nightmares, especially if they have claustrophobia. The CPAP mask can be particularly problematic for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But an oral appliance doesn’t give any smothering sensation. It fits completely in your mouth and opens your airway, giving you a sense of having more open air, not less.
No Skin Irritation
CPAP masks are secured to your face using straps. These straps can cause skin irritation of many types. Most develop red skin where the straps connect, which can take a long time to pass. Some people develop acne in areas where the straps are.
But oral appliances don’t require any mask or straps. Your skin won’t be disturbed by the oral appliance.
No Power Usage
A CPAP machine has to be plugged into the wall and uses electricity all night. Estimates of power usage for CPAP machines say they use about 0.2 kWh for each hour of operation. That’s 1.6 kWh each night. Costwise, that’s about $68 a year to run, which isn’t much for one machine. But when you add it up over the entire population of people with sleep apnea, it would be a total electricity usage of about 23 million MegaWatt hours per year if everyone used a CPAP machine.
An oral appliance uses no electricity.
Easier to Travel
And if you want to travel with your CPAP, you have to take your power usage into consideration. Camping, backpacking, and fishing trips become a problem. Traveling by plane is a nuisance. And just carrying all the equipment makes it harder to pack for travel. You don’t want to be without your sleep apnea treatment for even one night, since it can dramatically impact your mood and energy levels, potentially ruining any vacation or business trip.
Because of all the nuisance of using CPAP, most users don’t actually use their machines. Only about 40% of CPAP users even meet the standard of compliance: at least 4 hours a night, 70% of nights.
Using that standard, about 95% of oral appliance users are compliant. And about 84% of oral appliances users wear it all night every night, leading to better results from their treatment.
Get Better Treatment for Your Sleep Apnea
If you are considering your sleep apnea treatment options, you don’t have to get CPAP. There is a better option for many people. Make sure you listen to your doctor’s recommendations, but consider all your options. It’s especially important to mention when your current treatment isn’t working. Then your doctor or sleep dentist can help you find a suitable alternative.