Management of sleep apnea: a critical look at intra-oral appliances

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Abstract

With so many disciplines of both medicine and dentistry involved in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), several forms of therapy are available. The orthodontist is rarely considered when the diagnosis of chronic obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is delivered. However, the scope of orthodontic care today is much broader than the mere alignment of teeth. While the current gold standard for OSA care remains continuous positive air pressure (CPAP), the patient may be given a prescription for an intra-oral sleep appliance. When orthodontists work in concert with their medical colleagues to provide a sleep appliance, several considerations must be made including the evidence regarding oral appliance efficacy. For some patients, oral appliances are highly successful; however, even for responsive patients, there are risks associated with oral appliance therapy. The aim of the paper was to present a critical review of the current level of evidence for the use of oral appliances in the treatment of OSA. A substantial number of publications ranging from case reports, uncontrolled and controlled case series, prospective randomized studies, and even a small number of systematic reviews were available. The existing systematic reviews were based on either a limited number of prospective studies with limited numbers of patients or in some cases were based on subjective data only. As a result, a narrative review of the literature was performed that discusses objective clinically testable criteria and recent developments that may aid future research investigations.

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