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by Dr. Rondeau

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Which Is Better— a Custom or Over the Counter Oral Appliance for Sleep Apnea?

man sleeping with cpap and alternative oral appliances

You snore and suspect you have sleep apnea. But the great news is, not all sleep apnea needs to be treated with a clunky, inhibitive CPAP machine. If your case is mild or CPAP hasn’t worked for you, an oral appliance could be just the solution you need to stop the snoring and help you keep your airway open as you breathe at night. As you research oral appliances for sleep apnea, you learn that some are available for purchase over the counter. Which should you go with — a custom or over the counter oral appliance?

You may believe it’s a good idea to save the time and effort to test if an over-the-counter oral appliance solves the problem first—however, not all oral appliances are created equal. Custom oral appliances offer many benefits when compared to over the counter options, some of which may surprise you. When considering custom or over the counter oral appliances to end your snoring and treat your sleep apnea, keep these benefits in mind.

Custom Oral Appliance Benefits

1. Get a professional diagnosis.

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it is important to visit a professional. When you visit a dentist, you will be evaluated, records will be taken, and you can take a sleep study. The sleep study is evaluated by a sleep specialist, who can use all of this information to determine if an oral appliance is the proper course of treatment for you. (Sometimes it is determined that the patient does not have sleep apnea, or in the other extreme, a case is too severe and other treatment options are recommended.) Confirming with a professional sets you on the right path for you specifically, getting you back to good sleep and good health.

2. Insurance coverage may be available.

An oral appliance is a medical treatment for sleep apnea. With the diagnosis, it’s very likely that your health insurance will cover the oral appliance, curbing the cost. Check with your insurance company to determine coverage.

3. Comfortable, effective fit.

With over the counter oral appliances, often, the technology is “boil and bite,” meaning that you use hot water and get one shot at forming the appliance to fit in your mouth. Considering how careful we have to be when creating a custom fit for an oral appliance that is safe, effective, and comfortable, we are shocked that anyone would consider trying to fit their own.

4. Actually treat your sleep apnea.

In addition, custom appliances are created to ensure the airway is opened exactly the right amount for the patient, allowing patients to breath without obstruction. An over-the-counter option may fit your teeth, but you have no way to determine that it is opening your airway the proper amount to keep you breathing all night and prevent sleep disruption.

5. Professional guidance and adjustments.

Because you are working with a professional when you get a custom oral appliance, you receive more than just an appliance with a great fit. The dentist will work with you to ease you into the proper fit, making adjustments that are necessary to gradually work to keep your airway open. A dentist, who knows what they are doing and has the proper medical knowledge and training, will make adjustments to get you on your journey toward good health.

6. Over the counter oral appliances may cause further damage.

An appliance that attempts to open your airway in one sizing may be jarring and cause extreme discomfort. Worse, an improper fit may cause further damage to your health—including teeth movement that ruins your bite or causes issues with your TMJ (the jaw joint).

7. It could save your life.

The bottom line is, obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disease with life threatening side effects. It can lead to an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. While you may believe you are saving money by purchasing an oral appliance over the counter rather than seeing a medical professional, it’s possible that the cost of not effectively treating your sleep apnea may be much greater than the money saved.

So which would you choose—a custom or over the counter oral appliance? If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it’s time to stop messing around and visit a professional, who can help get you on your way to good, healthy nights of sleep with a custom oral appliance and treatment plan that is meant just for you.

Interested in setting up an appointment? Set up a free consultation today.

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