If you have sleep apnea, the chances are you may need to wear an oral device to help you relieve the symptoms of this condition. Oral appliance therapy is an effective alternative to CPAP for treating obstructive sleep apnea, but it may come with potential side effects, such as occlusal changes. That’s why many people ask the same question – can my bite change if I use an oral sleep apnea device?
Bite changes are the most prevalent side effect of using an oral appliance, but they are infrequent when following guidelines for using the appliance. They are also addressed by performing gentle exercises and using a repositioning device after taking out the sleep appliance in the morning. In some situations, physical therapy, muscle relaxants, and muscle injections including Botox are needed. In the most extreme cases, which are rare if the patient follows the guidelines, orthodontics are needed.
Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from wearing an oral sleep apnea device, what the benefits and risks are, and how you can minimize the risk of a potential bite change.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when there are interruptions in a person’s breathing during sleep. Three types of sleep apnea exist – obstructive, central, and mixed.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. This happens when the person’s upper airway is partly or completely blocked during sleep. Central sleep apnea happens as a consequence of the brain failing to signal the muscles to breathe. Finally, mixed sleep apnea occurs as a mixture of the first two types.
If it is not treated, sleep apnea can contribute to various health issues, including stroke, hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and heart attacks. It can be responsible for motor vehicle crashes, job impairment, and work-related accidents.
The most common therapies for sleep apnea are CPAP therapy and oral appliance therapy.
How Can an Oral Device Help You Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway is blocked completely or partly. These episodes can reduce the oxygen flow to vital organs, interfere with sound sleep, and cause heart rhythm issues. If you have OSA, oral appliance therapy is very effective in treating this condition. On the other hand, oral devices are not used to treat central sleep apnea since this health problem is related to the function of the central nervous system.
Oral appliance therapy is used for treating patients with mild to moderate OSA. The purpose of these oral devices is to prevent the tongue from blocking the throat and help keep the airway open during sleep. Consulting a dentist and a sleep specialist is needed to help determine whether this is the right treatment for you.
Benefits of Oral Devices for Treating Sleep Apnea
Oral appliance therapy for OSA has numerous benefits for the patient. One of the essential benefits is that oral devices can relieve the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness, concentration problems, moodiness, and can reduce or even completely eliminate snoring. Also, these devices are more comfortable compared to other solutions, such as CPAP masks. Unlike CPAP therapy, there are no complaints about dry and itchy noses.
Another benefit is that oral devices don’t produce any noise when being used, which is perfect not only for the patient but also for his or her partner. These devices are also easy to take along when traveling, and they do not require a source of electricity, which means they can be used anywhere.
Risks of Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy does come with some drawbacks. When it comes to oral devices, the most common risks include bite changes, pain in the jaw and/or teeth, soreness, and tension.
Excessive salivation is also a common consequence of wearing an oral sleep apnea device, and so is dry mouth. Although very rare, oral appliance therapy can also contribute to loosening of dental restorations, such as crowns and bridges, and cause a need for dental work.
Bite Changes As a Consequence of Oral Appliance Therapy
In most cases, the consequences of using oral appliances are minor, such as salvation issues, but one of the things that worry patients the most is the potential bite change. Keep in mind that if you follow the guidelines for using the appliance, you don’t have to worry about bite changes as they are not frequent in these situations.
Most oral devices work by moving the lower jaw forward in order to keep the airways open during sleep and prevent them from collapsing. However, because of this jaw movement, there’s pressure on the teeth and jaw that can cause teeth to move slightly or lead to the repositioning of the jaw, and if this happens, the person’s bite can change.
Although not very common if the guidelines are followed properly, bite change can occur as a consequence of oral appliance therapy. Consult a dentist for more information about the potential bite changes after wearing oral devices for treating sleep apnea.
How to Minimize the Risk of Bite Change?
If you want to minimize the risk of bite change, it is essential to follow the guidelines for using the oral appliance. Following the guidelines properly will help you prevent the most prevalent side effects.
Another solution is performing gentle jaw exercises every morning after waking up and removing the dental sleep device. Performing these exercises for a few minutes each day will help you reset your bite, reduce the likelihood of permanent bite changes, and eliminate stiffness.
Finally, the use a repositioning device after taking out the oral appliance in the morning is the standard for preventing and treating any bite changes. This should take 5 minutes or less, but it will go a long way when it comes to reducing the risk of bite changes.
If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Jeremy Abbott or our offices for assistance!