The Vancouver Sleep and Breathing Centre




What is a Dental Appliance?

A dental appliance is a special mouthpiece fashioned by a dentist to fit your teeth and jaw. Dental appliances have been used to treat grinding of the teeth and temporomandibular joint problems. Another use for dental appliances is the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  OSA is a condition in which the air passage actually closes off repeatedly as the person sleeps


Image of Dental Appliance

A Dental Appliance Called the "Silencer"


How Do These Devices Work to Prevent Snoring?

Snoring occurs when there is excessive crowding of the air passage during sleep. As the person breathes, a vibration occurs in the tissues of the throat that produces the snoring noise. The main culprits are the soft palate and the tongue. Dental appliances work by pulling the jaw and tongue forward in order to open up the air passage. In a patient with OSA, this has the added benefit of allowing air to flow more freely so that that person can sleep better without fear of asphyxia. 


Image of Dental Appliance Image of Dental Appliance

The appliance is set in the neutral position.

The appliance is adjusted to provide ~ 70% of the maximum mandibular advancement

Image of Airway Image of Airway

Picture of the airway corresponding to the neutral setting.

Picture of the airway corresponding to the 70% setting.

** Not every patient will achieve such dramatic results. This example was chosen for illustrative purposes.


Will a Dental Appliance Work for Me?

There are many different kinds of dental appliances which are claimed to be effective for the treatment of snoring. You should consult with your physician or a dentist experienced in the use of these devices before trying any of them.

3 Basic Kinds of Dental Appliances


What Should I Look For in a Dental Appliance?

Cost: The price can range from $50 to $2,000. As a basic rule-of-thumb, "You get what you pay for."

Comfort: Devices that pull the jaw forward are usually more comfortable than those that grab the end of the tongue to pull it forward. Custom made appliances using high quality materials are more comfortable than those made of cheaper materials. The less bulky the better.

Durability: Again, "You get what you pay for." Over-the-counter devices generally last less than one year. Custom made appliances will require periodic adjustment and last 5 or more years. Usually, the metal portions can be reused if the device has to be remade.

Adjustability and Mobility: The cheaper devices usually have only one size and setting. However, one size definitely does not fit all! Some, but not all custom made devices can be adjusted so that the right amount of jaw advancement is set. Some, but not all custom made devices allow for limited side to side and vertical motion. This increases the comfort to the wearer and prevents the development of jaw problems.

Some devices can be adjusted by the wearer. However, it is preferable to have a certified dentist make the adjustments to insure the maximum comfort and effectiveness.


Is it Safe for Use with my Existing Dental Work?

The cheaper devices should not be used if you have a lot of dental work. Even the more expensive devices can damage dental work. Find out what the material is that comes into contact with your dental work and speak with your dentist about it.


Advantages of Using a Dental Appliance

Dental appliances are:


Smart Questions to Ask about Your Dental Appliance


Click here for more on dental appliance therapy.


Lifestyle changes
Body position
Nasal sprays
Nasal valve dilators
Dental appliances
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)


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