Although sleep doctors most often prescribe CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) to treat sleep apnea, there are other options, including oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy has many benefits over CPAP. It’s more comfortable and convenient. It’s easier to use, requires no power, and is easy to transport. But perhaps the best benefit of oral appliance therapy is that it’s less expensive over the long run than CPAP–if you maintain your oral appliance properly to extend its life.

Fortunately, it’s easy to maintain an oral appliance. When you get your custom oral appliance, Dr. Ken Siegel will give you specific care instructions, but here are some general points for basic reference.

Clean Your Teeth Carefully Before Inserting Appliance

Your oral appliance shouldn’t be anywhere but in your mouth, storage container, or hands during transition or maintenance. This means that if your appliance picks up odors or stains, it will come from your mouth. So, make sure you thoroughly clean your teeth before inserting your appliance.

Brush your teeth carefully to remove as much plaque as possible. Always remember to floss to remove the plaque between your teeth, and at the gum line you miss when brushing.

However, it’s often best to skip mouthwash before putting your appliance in. Mouthwash frequently contains dyes that can discolor your oral appliance. In addition, the alcohol in mouthwash can damage some plastics, so ask Dr. Siegel about the plastic in your appliance. If your general dentist recommends mouthwash, consider using it after you take your appliance out in the morning.

Inspect Your Appliance Before Wear

Oral appliances are durable and can typically last for years. However, it’s important to do a quick visual inspection of your appliance before putting it in your mouth. Look for cracks, wear, or displaced components. A damaged appliance might not give you the sleep apnea treatment you need to maintain good health and a high quality of life.

If you notice damage to your appliance, contact our office for further instructions. Don’t use a damaged appliance unless we tell you it’s okay.

Consult Instructions for Insertion and Removal

Oral appliances are very easy to use. You just put them in before bed and remove them when you wake up.

Putting the appliance in and taking it out is easy, but there may be a little trick to it. Some appliances should be inserted at the bottom first. Others recommend inserting the top first. Some say you should bite down to seat the appliance, while others say you shouldn’t do this. Some manufacturers say you should run your appliance under hot water before insertion, but many say hot water will damage the appliance.

Looking over the instructions when you get your new appliance will help you get the best result without damaging the appliance. After one or two nights, you’ll be able to put the instructions away–you’ll know the routine by heart.

Avoid Eating or Drinking with Your Appliance in

Your appliance isn’t designed for biting and chewing. Don’t eat or drink anything but water while wearing the appliance.

Eating while wearing the appliance could damage it. Foods and drinks can also stain your appliance or cause an odor. Hot food and beverages could damage your appliance.

Put your appliance in after you’ve brushed your teeth for the night, and take it out before you eat breakfast.

How to Clean Your Oral Appliance

Clean your appliance as soon as you take it out in the morning. Rinse your appliance in cool or warm water–not hot water, and never boiling water. Hot or boiling water can warp or otherwise damage your appliance.

After rinsing, use soap and a soft-bristled brush to gently clean your appliance. You can use antibacterial soap, but it’s not necessary. Soft soap and bar soap are both excellent options for your appliance.

If your appliance comes with a brush, use that. Otherwise, a toothbrush works well. A child’s toothbrush might be more effective because of its smaller head. A denture-cleaning brush is also a popular choice. Any brush you can comfortably use with soft bristles is a good choice.

Never use toothpaste to clean your appliance. Toothpaste is abrasive for cleaning plaque off the hard surfaces of your teeth, but the abrasive particles will scratch your appliance. These scratches will give your appliance a dull appearance. They will also catch food, leading to staining and odors. In addition, oral bacteria can shelter in scratches, leading to unpleasant odors and tastes.

After cleaning, give your appliance one final rinse and then dry it in a well-ventilated plastic container.

Should You Soak Your Oral Appliance?

Most manufacturers say you do not have to soak your oral appliance daily like a denture. However, some manufacturers say you should soak your appliance occasionally to help avoid odors and stains. Sometimes, manufacturers will even supply a soak that is recommended for their appliance.

Unless the instructions explicitly recommend it, do not soak your appliance in:

  • Hot or boiling water
  • Mouthwash
  • Bleach
  • Denture cleaners
  • Cleaners intended for other appliances

If you do, you might damage your appliance or reduce its durability. Remember: cleaners aren’t necessarily transferable between appliances and dentures. The different materials, such as plastics and metals, might be damaged by compounds that would effectively clean other materials.

How to Store Your Oral Appliance

Store your oral appliance in the case provided. If you lose this case, you can use any sturdy plastic container with air holes to allow ventilation. Put the case in a cool, dry place. Keep it out of reach of children and pets. Dogs love to chew, and a few patients lose their appliances this way.

Keep your appliance out of direct sunlight. Also, avoid exposing your appliance to temperatures over 140° F.

How to Repair Your Oral Appliance

In general, you should not attempt to repair your oral appliance. The materials and tools you have around the house might not be suited to the job. They can further damage your appliance and may even be toxic in your mouth. A repaired appliance might not work as designed. You might not get the desired results, and the appliance may position your jaw in an unhealthy way, causing or worsening temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).

If your appliance is broken, contact us immediately.

Some manufacturers do recommend that you perform minor repairs on your oral appliance. If they do, they will provide you with custom tools for the job, and Dr. Siegel will give you instructions when you receive your appliance. If you do not remember these instructions, do not attempt the repair.

Get Convenient Sleep Apnea Treatment in Blue Bell

If you have sleep apnea and you’re looking for a comfortable, convenient treatment option, let Dr. Ken Siegel help. Oral appliance therapy can give you great results without the hassle, discomfort, and expense of CPAP.

Please call (610) 272-0828 or use our online form to request an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Ken Siegel at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.