Insomnia is a pain to have to deal with, but it’s worse when someone is snoring. Just as you’re sliding into dreamland, your husband lets loose with a snort that queers the deal. Or your wife starts up with her throaty rattling again. Or—more maddening still—the snore that jolts you awake comes out of your own mouth.
All it may take to stop snoring is a dental device worn at night. This month, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) updated their clinical practice guidelines for the use of oral appliances to relieve snoring.
Insomniacs with snoring partners and people with mild to moderate sleep apnea: listen up.
How the Devices Work
Snoring occurs when the area at the back of the mouth and nose collapses during sleep. The tongue and upper throat then come to rest against the soft palate and the uvula, striking each other repeatedly during breathing. This restricts the flow of air and causes the sound of snoring.
Oral appliances stop snoring by preventing the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues at the back of the throat. In so doing, they
- Keep the airway open during sleep and allow for adequate air intake
- Reduce the frequency and intensity of snoring
- Improve sleep quality and quality of life in both the snorer and the snorer’s partner.
You’ll know what it feels like to wear an oral appliance if you’ve ever worn a retainer or a mouth guard for sports. Made of plastic, it’s fitted by a dentist and molded to the shape of your mouth.
It may take a few weeks to adjust to sleeping with the device, according to the AADSM. But once you get used to it, it’s easy to wear. And unlike CPAP machines, oral appliances are small and portable.
Who Qualifies for Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT)
The new guidelines suggest that physicians should consider prescribing oral appliances for 2 types of patients:
- Adults who request treatment for primary snoring (without sleep apnea)
- Adults with mild to moderate sleep apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy or prefer an alternative therapy.
The guidelines also recommend that custom, titratable oral appliances (rather than non-custom oral devices) be prescribed for adults with sleep apnea, and that follow-up treatment be provided to all patients to ensure that the devices are working as they should.
Covered by Insurance
All dentists may not know this, but OAT is virtually always covered by medical insurance, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Whether private or public, insurers use the same criteria for OAT as they use for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Most insurance companies do not require a trial or failure of CPAP therapy before allowing coverage of OAT. But in order for the appliance and fitting to qualify for coverage, a dentist must receive a written prescription from a primary care physician or a sleep specialist.
So whether your partner’s snoring is fueling your insomnia or the culprit is you yourself, check into getting an oral appliance. This is a painless, non-invasive fix for a problem no one needs.