Types of Sleep Apnea Appliances and Machines

If you’re someone who struggles with snoring, sleep apnea, or some undiagnosed form of sleep-disordered breathing, you’ve probably done plenty of research on the best sleep apnea equipment. Although conventional CPAP machines have been used effectively for decades, there are more CPAP alternatives available today to choose from. Oral sleep appliances (also called oral sleep therapy or OAT) are just one example.


Since sleep apnea appliances each work in their own unique ways, it’s important to understand the benefits of each one. That way you can make an educated decision about CPAP or CPAP alternatives like oral sleep appliances, depending on your individual health. The various designs are specific in the way they address issues like snoring, sleep apnea, etc.



CPAP Machines


A CPAP machine is named such for its ability to provide continuous positive airway pressure. It features an oxygen delivery system comprised of a nosepiece and tubes that fit over your face to physically force oxygen into your airway.


The downside of CPAP machines is that they’re often bulky and cumbersome. If the noise doesn’t bother you, the hosing and nosepiece likely do. Their large design impacts your sleeping position and even the ability to travel. Packing up and heading out of town for the weekend or flying with your CPAP machine can be both a hassle as well as embarrassing.



Types of CPAP Masks


On top of using a CPAP machine, you also have different types of CPAP “mask” designs to choose from. Each one fits differently around your face or scalp. For instance, a Nasal Pillow Mask is a bit less restrictive and makes it easier to wear glasses, since it doesn’t cover as much of your face. A Nasal Mask design allows a higher level of air pressure and is ideal if you’re someone who moves around a lot in your sleep. And full face masks offer both nasal and mouth air pressure for serious obstruction or congestion.





Although CPAP machines are the most common type of “positive airway pressure” (PAP) appliance, other mechanical CPAP alternatives do exist.


BiPAP machines split the pressure delivery for people who need higher air pressure but might have difficulty exhaling if there is continuous pressure. APAP is similar to a CPAP but offers various airway settings ranging from low to high. And EPAP devices are used more for milder apnea cases or snoring, which don’t require a CPAP machine. With EPAP, you get a single-use device that fits over your nostrils.



Herbst Appliance


Herbst fixtures were one of the first types of oral sleep appliances. These mouthpieces use special clasps and adjustable metal pieces that position the jaw into a specific location and adjust the way that it moves. You may have also seen Herbst appliances used in orthodontic therapy. However, Herbst appliances are one of the older styles of appliances and they are quite a bit bulkier, due to the “bars” placed on either side of the mouth. If you don’t like the feeling of something large just inside of your cheeks or over your teeth, it’s probably best to choose a more streamlined oral appliance.



TAP® (Thornton Adjustable Positioner)


“TAP” style oral appliance therapy works by forcing the lower jaw in a forward position so that your tongue and soft tissues at the back of the throat don’t block your airway. The downside to mandibular advancement devices like an older, bulky TAP design is that it can lead to jaw soreness, tooth movement, TMJ issues, and extra time requirements to try to find the best fit.



New Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) Designs


Oral Appliance Therapy or “OAT” is one of the best sleep apnea equipment investments for people with a CPAP intolerance. That is someone who can’t or is unable to use a CPAP machine. OAT also works well for people with milder to moderate forms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) as they naturally open the upper airway and reduce tissue blockage.


OAT is one of the only non-CPAP treatments that’s effective on snoring and sleep apnea. However, you can’t get an oral appliance from a traditional sleep physician. Since it is technically a dental device, it must be fitted and delivered by a licensed sleep dentistry provider. If you already have a sleep physician you can ask them for a prescription for an OAT, or you can contact Raleigh Dental Arts directly to initiate the process if you know you’re CPAP intolerant.



Benefits of OAT (Oral Appliance Therapy)


Each of our oral sleep appliances is digitally fitted, rather than designed out of the same bulky stock equipment. Just like any other custom dental device, OATs are molded to your individual smile and bite shape. This offers the best sleep apnea equipment fit, for a higher level of comfort and efficacy.


If you’re looking for the best CPAP alternatives, oral sleep appliances are typically the first choice. Their smaller design and contour make them easier to sleep in. There are no hoses or mechanical parts that you need to plug in. Plus, they’re easy to travel with and maintain. You can easily take them on vacation, business trips, or airplanes without having the hassle or embarrassment of bulky CPAP machines.


When you choose a smaller dental appliance for sleep apnea, you can easily store it on your nightstand or bathroom counter. It fits in any travel case. Plus, you can sleep in any position without hoses getting in the way. But best of all, you won’t need to struggle with straps or nosepieces attached around your head.


Wearing an OAT appliance is also “gentler” on your family members or roommates. If you share a bedroom, your sleep partner won’t be burdened by mechanical noises and air from a traditional CPAP machine. An oral appliance can truly affect the quality of life for everyone in your household.



OptiSleep and SICAT


Manufactured by Dentsply Sirona, the SICAT Air and OptiSleep OATs are one of the first digitally designed solutions for analyzing and treating OSA (the most common form of sleep apnea.) It uses an actual 3-D analysis of your individual airway anatomy so that the appliance can be digitally planned before it ever goes inside of your mouth. The software analyzes everything from how your jaw position rests to the way surrounding soft tissues press into your upper airway. By taking multiple variables into consideration, the software can reposition your biting relationship in a way that holistically treats airway blockage.


Best of all, no gooey impressions or models of your teeth are necessary! This option is a great fit if you have a sensitive gag reflex and find it difficult to get dental impressions taken.



Avant by SomnoMed


SomnoMed has long been a well-respected leader in oral appliance therapy designs. They’re a development of the SomnoMed Avant provides a slimline, durable mouthpiece for people who want a more comfortable and discreet appliance. The Avant’s smaller design blends comfort and efficacy, making it as easy to wear as an everyday retainer. But that’s not the only thing that’s unique about the Avant. It’s also the very first milled OAT device on the market. In other words, we’re able to eliminate adjustment times and your device is carved from one solid piece of material.


Once again, it’s completely digital. The 3D digital scan is what allows a virtual “mold” of your teeth to be transferred into SomnoMed’s milling equipment. No gooey impressions are needed.





Raleigh Dental Arts is also incorporating a newer piece of equipment known as the ProSomnus® sleep and snore device. This OAT mouthpiece is truly individualized based on “patient-centric phenotypes” and anatomical characteristics, allowing it to serve as a truly therapeutic mouthpiece. And like our other Raleigh digital sleep apnea appliances, this one also takes advantage of 3D CAD/CAM scanning and milling, allowing for optimal quality and fit on each individual case.



Figuring Out if You Have Sleep Apnea


Before choosing the best sleep apnea equipment, you’ll need to have a formal screening and evaluation. That way you know exactly which type of sleeping disorder you have and which type of machine or CPAP alternatives are appropriate for treating it. Raleigh Dental Arts can guide you through the home sleep study process so that you aren’t necessarily having to stay overnight in an off-site sleep lab with someone watching you. Once you have your official diagnosis, we can work on getting an oral sleep appliance fitted, if appropriate.



Raleigh CPAP Alternatives


No one single machine or appliance is right for everyone. Working with an experienced physician and/or sleep dentistry provider can help you get the highest level of benefits out of your investment. At Raleigh Dental Arts, we offer digitally designed oral sleep appliances for optimal fit and performance. The smaller, streamlined design is easier and more comfortable to sleep in.


Contact our Raleigh sleep apnea dentistry team today to reserve a consultation. We’ll help you navigate the home-based testing process and determine which type of appliance is best for your needs.

Tarun Agarwal

Dr. Tarun Agarwal, DDS is considered one of the top dentists in the country. He is a recognized speaker, author, and dental leader. He has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and News 14 Carolina. Dr. Agarwal has been awarded '40 under 40' Business Leaders by the Triangle Business Journal. He is regularly invited to teach other dentists around the world and recently built a training center within the practice dedicated to sharing his expertise. Most importantly he is a loving husband and dedicated father of three wonderful children. His biggest accolade was being voted 'Best Dad in the World' by 2 of his 3 kids.