I made a social media post last week asking people about any questions they had about dental sleep medicine, oral appliances for sleep apnea or splint therapy for TMJ/TMD. I received several questions about what a dental sleep appliance looks like. The answer to the question is not just one answer. The answer is that there are hundreds of different dental sleep appliances. The way the appliances work are similar. They each are supporting the jaw in a position that helps maintain the airway space (keeps the tongue from falling back into the airway at night when your muscles relax while you are asleep). Each different type of appliance accomplishes this in a different way. Most, if not all, are two components- one piece that goes on the top teeth and one that goes on the bottom. Then, there is always a component that supports the lower jaw in a specific position. The attachment component can be a metal hinge, a plastic band, a nylon bar, among other things. The attachment component on all of the appliances I work with are adjustable. The appliance can be adjusted to move the lower jaw more forward or backward until you are in the optimal position, verified with a follow up sleep study. I will highlight today photos of two appliances that I use the most, although there are a variety of reasons why you would use one verses the other.
This is the Prosomnus. There are several different appliance types that fall under this manufacturer. Patients, especially if they have worn a retainer, invisalign, or braces, like this product because it is familiar. It is similar to a retainer in how it looks and feels. It is two separate, independent units (there is a separate upper and lower tray). The side mechanism that supports the lower jaw can be slightly different in each model. One type has a metal component that moves the support bar forward and backwards with a key. The other main type has a series of trays that are switched out to move the jaw slightly more forward or backwards.
This is the Panthera. This is made out of a nylon material that is very durable and strong. It provides a bit more flexibility and doesn’t fit so snugly on the teeth. It is fairly easy to tolerate in most patients. It is two connected units. The jaw can be adjusted more forward or backward by changing out the length of the side band. The shorter the band, the more forward the lower jaw.
Don’t worry, though, we help you figure this out! Both choosing the type of appliance and how and when to make adjustments are what we do. There are specific reasons why one appliance might work for one patient more than another. That is where we can come in and be helpful! An examination where we go through and look at your specific mouth, habits, and lifestyle will help us choose the best appliance for you. Remember there are hundreds of different types. We want to walk through your individual needs and come up with a treatment plan for YOU!