We know that although CPAP is a more effective sleep apnea treatment, oral appliances are just as successful at helping people improve their symptoms. Now a new meta-analysis has reinforced this conclusion. Although CPAP is better in some ways for sleep apnea, the poor compliance means that when it comes to practical measures, the two treatments aren’t statistically different.
A Good Review
For this study, researchers looked for randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of CPAP and oral appliances. These studies are considered the best form of evidence in determining which treatments really work. They initially identified 240 unique papers, but they narrowed this down to 12 studies that actually met their detailed inclusion criteria. These rigorous inclusion criteria ensured that researchers had a good, apples-to-apples comparison between the two treatments.
Where CPAP Was Better
The studies didn’t conclude that the two treatments were exactly equivalent. There were significant differences between the two treatments. CPAP was definitely better at reducing the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). CPAP was also better at reducing people’s level on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), although at the end of the studies, there was no significant difference between ESS of those using both treatments.
Where Oral Appliances Were Better
Although oral appliances weren’t as effective at reducing AHI, compliance was significantly better in the oral appliance group. On average, people used their oral appliances 1.1 hours more every night. That average represents a 25% increase over the minimum time considered compliant for CPAP.
Functional Outcomes Equivalent
The net effect of these differences is that the two treatments led to the same treatment results. Patients who used both treatments had similar improvements in the Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire. Nor were they any different in terms of cognitive performance.
Based on this information, researchers recommend that patients given CPAP be closely monitored for compliance. If they’re not compliant, they should be shifted to oral appliance therapy.
Don’t Stick with a Failing Treatment
If you’ve been prescribed CPAP, you should make sure you’re giving it a fair try. However, if you can’t adapt to CPAP, there’s no reason to stick with that failing treatment. Instead, it’s time to look for an alternative, and the most convenient alternative treatment is oral appliance therapy.
If you haven’t been prescribed a treatment yet, make sure your doctor understands the latest science and treatment guidelines suggesting that oral appliance therapy is equivalent to CPAP in terms of outcomes for most patients.
If you and your doctor decide that you’d like to try oral appliance therapy, either before or after trying CPAP, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.