Sleep Apnea, Snoring + Oral Appliances



Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is basically a mechanical problem while a person is asleep. The mechanical obstruction can occur when the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep. This can occur many times during sleep. Usually, a person would awaken suddenly and gasp for breath.

Frequently with OSA, the tongue falls back against the soft palate, and then the soft palate falls back against the back of the throat. This closes the airway. If the airway closes, then the person who is asleep will go through the motion of expanding the chest to breathe; however, no air will enter the lungs.

In severe cases, this could be life-threatening.


A medical doctor can diagnose this serious disorder either by a sleep study performed at a sleep clinic, or by wearing a special testing device while sleeping at home.

Here are some symptoms and signs of OSA:

  • Snoring loudly and frequently
  • High blood pressure with no apparent cause
  • Gasping for breath or choking while asleep
  • Thickened tongue along with gritting & grinding of teeth at night
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Waking with an excessively dry mouth or sore throat



The Lifestyle Changes

If you are obese, smoke, or drink alcohol in excess, then you should seriously consider losing weight, quitting smoking; and limiting alcohol.

C-PAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

Some people with moderate to severe sleep apnea require a mechanical device to help them breath. One machine is a C-PAP device. This is a small pump with a mask that covers the nose and mouth. It delivers a supply of compressed air.

MAD – Mandibular Advancement Device

In mild cases of sleep apnea, a dentist can customize a dental device to help open the airway. This dental appliance looks like and fits like a “bite guard”. It actually moves the lower jaw slightly forward when sleeping. It positions the jaw and the tongue in such a way that it increases space in the back of the throat. In this way, it helps to open up the airway.


Various surgical procedures are available as a last resort. These surgical procedures can modify the soft tissues around the throat to open and help maintain a healthy airway.

examples of oral appliancesCUSTOM ORAL APPLIANCES
Oral appliances hold the lower jaw forward; this bring the tongue away from the back of the throat. Also, muscle tone in the tongue, palate, uvula, and muscles that form the walls of the throat are improved, making the throat less collapsible.

Boil and bite appliances purchased in a store or on the internet may help for a short time. They may be especially useful as an interim appliance while a custom appliance is at the laboratory. Generally, these appliances do not stay in the mouth very well and aren’t as strong as custom options. In a research study, over the counter appliances have been shown to be less comfortable and less effective than custom appliances.  If you have tried one of these appliances, don’t let your experience with it determine whether a custom appliance might be an answer for your treatment.  Dr. Porcelli would love to have a consultation with you and like all our treatments we will approach this holistically looking at all the factors to determine the best course of action. A custom oral appliance may be just the answer you are looking for!