Study finds some sleep apnea patients can swap CPAP for mouthguards

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and potentially deadly condition that is typically treated by a combination of lifestyle changes and the use of a CPAP machine. Though they're helpful, many people find CPAP machines too uncomfortable and loud to sleep comfortably, leading them to abandon the potentially life-saving machine. In this case, a new study has found, a mouth guard may be a suitable alternative.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) refers to a condition in which the soft tissue in the throat and mouth blocks normal airflow when sleeping, resulting in periods where breathing stops. This issue, when it is mild, can lead to things like feeling tired during the day; in more severe cases, the condition can lead to other health problems and potentially even premature death.

A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is commonly used to treat this condition; it works by boosting the air pressure in the throat, helping prevent the soft tissue from collapsing so that the user can breathe properly at night. The downside to these machines is that they're large, fairly loud, and involve strapping a mask to one's face, making it harder to fall and stay asleep.

For those people who find the CPAP machine too uncomfortable, replacing it with a mouth guard may be a suitable alternative. That's according to a new study published in Laryngoscope, which found that 2/3rds of patients who received a properly fitted mouthguard from an otolaryngologist found them comfortable and effective.

The study found that mouthguards are "an effective and well-tolerated treatment" for many people who have moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea hypopnea syndrome. The researchers conclude that these oral appliances should be considered as a treatment for more obstructive sleep apnea patients, though it isn't effective for everyone.