How and Why to get Oral Appliance Therapy

By: Teresa DeNike

If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, there’s a 90% chance your doctor recommended CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). There’s a reason for that — CPAP is incredibly effective — but it might not be right for you, and the hose can be cumbersome to sleep in.

If you can’t use CPAP, or would like another treatment, don’t worry. Oral appliance therapy is an amazing second option.

Before the Dos and Don’ts of oral appliance therapy, let’s review exactly why you need to treat sleep apnea and snoring.

Why Sleep Apnea Should Not Be Left Untreated

Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition, linked with Alzheimer’s, periodontitis, and cardiovascular failure. As for snoring, sleep divorce is remarkably common and can have a terrible effect on relationships.

So if you suffer from these conditions and don’t want to use CPAP, an oral appliance is important. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple — not unlike a retainer or clear aligner.

Do’s and Don’ts of Oral Appliance Therapy

That being said, here are three Dos and Don’ts for making sure it works effectively and hygienically.

  1. Do: Plan to Wear the Device Every Night During Sleep
  2. Do: Rinse, Clean, and Store it Every Morning
  3. Do: Tell Your Dentist if You’re Experiencing Any Pain
  4. Don’t: Freak Out
  5. Don’t: Let Your Dog Get to Your Appliance
  6. Don’t: Put it in the Dishwasher

Do: Plan to Wear the Device Every Night During Sleep

Consistency is important for other types of oral hardware, like retainers and clear aligners, but even more so for oral appliances. Should you not wear cosmetic hardware, there’s a danger that your teeth could shift and the treatment will be ineffective. Should you not wear an oral appliance for sleep apnea, there’s a danger that your cardiovascular, oral, and cognitive health could suffer.

Do: Rinse, Clean, and Store it Every Morning

This might go without saying, but keeping your oral appliance clean is essential for good oral hygiene. If you gently brush it, dry it, and store it correctly each morning, you reduce the risk of bacteria and general grossness.

Do: Tell Your Dentist if You’re Experiencing Any Pain

These devices are custom-made for your mouth; if it doesn’t fit well, that could be a problem. The pain could potentially be related to bite and jaw issues, so if you experience any pain when wearing your appliance, let your dentist know and they can resolve the problem.

Don’t: Freak Out

Because this device was custom-made for your mouth, it needs to be snug. If you are having trouble getting used to it, wear it for a few minutes during the day or at night before you sleep. Tightness, soreness, and discomfort should resolve in a week or two.

Don’t: Let Your Dog Get to Your Appliance

Seriously — dogs love these things. Keep it in the case and out of reach! Device manufacturers provide a warranty for your device, but it rarely covers dog damage.

Don’t: Put it in the Dishwasher

Although it’s crucial to keep the appliance clean, leave it out of the dishwasher! It could affect the integrity and strength of the materials of your device and cause it to degrade and become ineffective.

Oral Appliance Therapy Could Be For You

That’s the basics of why you might use oral appliance therapy instead of CPAP and how to use it! The most important thing when considering oral appliance therapy is to consult with your doctor and dentist to make sure it’s a good option for you.

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush

Teresa Power DeNike

Teresa Power DeNike

Teresa Power DeNike, BS, is the founder of Sleep Better NYC. She has a passion for helping people sleep better through education, sleep coaching, and care coordination. DeNike is board-certified in clinical sleep health with expertise in sleep apnea screening, testing, and treatment, as well as general sleep hygiene and mindset practices. Contact her at