In picking the right sleep apnea therapy for you, choosing the one that best fits your lifestyle is important. This doesn’t just include the treatment you will use; it also includes the treatment you will maintain properly. Improper maintenance can make your treatment less effective or lead to health problems. 

This is one area where oral appliance therapy and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) are notably different. At the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center, we want you to understand the convenience of oral appliance therapy so you can decide which treatment is right for you. Note that these guidelines are general. If you’re a current patient, always consult your sleep dentist’s instructions when you receive your oral appliance.

Clean Your Teeth Before Inserting Appliance

adult man brushing his teeth in the mirror

To keep your oral appliance clean, strong, and functional, it’s essential to clean your teeth before inserting your appliance. Thoroughly brush and floss your teeth to remove oral bacteria. This will reduce the amount of bacteria that can colonize your appliance, which could lead to discoloration and odors. 

If you use mouthwash, try to find one without colors. Dyes in mouthwash can discolor your appliance. In some cases, mouthwash can even damage your appliance. Alcohol is a common ingredient in commercial mouthwash, and it can damage some appliances. It’s often best that if you use mouthwash, do it in the morning after you take out your appliance.

Don’t Eat or Drink While Wearing Your Appliance

You shouldn’t eat or drink anything but water while wearing your appliance. These could lead to the same problems we discussed above: discoloration, odors, and damage to the appliance. Put your sleep apnea appliance in when you are finished eating and drinking for the day. However, feel free to drink water with the appliance if you’re thirsty.

Inspect Your Appliance Before Wear

Oral appliances are very durable. When properly cared for, they are expected to last for years, even a decade or more, before they need to be replaced. This is part of why they are less expensive than CPAP in the long run. 

However, it is possible that your appliance may break, warp, or wear out. If you wear a broken appliance, you might experience poor results or potentially damaging side effects. Give your appliance a quick inspection before insertion to make sure it’s free from visible damage.

Insert and Remove Your Appliance According to Instructions

Inserting your oral appliance correctly will reduce the chances that it will be damaged and increase the odds that you will get good results from sleep apnea treatment. With some appliances, you are supposed to insert the bottom first. Others are the top. Some suggest running the appliance under hot tap water, although hot water is forbidden for most appliances. Some suggest biting down to seat the appliance, while others caution against this. Check your specific instructions to know what’s right for your appliance. 

Also, check the removal instructions. These may be a simple reversal of insertion instructions, but there may be special steps to remove the appliance properly.

How to Clean Your Appliance

Again, check your instructions to understand whether there are specific guidelines for cleaning your appliance. However, for most appliances, you should rinse it first in cool or warm water. 

Then, wash your appliance with hand soap using a soft-bristled brush. Some manufacturers supply a specific brush for cleaning the appliance, which you should use if you have it. A soft-bristled toothbrush works well if you do not get a specific cleaning brush. Sometimes, you might find that the smaller head of a child’s toothbrush works better to reach all the parts of your appliance. 

In general, do not clean your appliance with:

  • Toothpaste
  • Bleach
  • Hot or boiling water
  • Mouthwash
  • Cleaners not approved for your appliance

Toothpaste is too abrasive for your oral appliance. Your teeth are hard, but the appliance is soft, and toothpaste can scratch it. Scratches on your appliance can provide shelter for oral bacteria, leading to smells and discoloration. Bleach, mouthwash, and unapproved cleaners could react with your appliance, causing metal parts to rust and plastic parts to degrade. Hot or boiling water can lead to melting or warping of the appliance. 

In addition, you should not attempt to sterilize your appliance by putting it in:

  • The microwave
  • The dishwasher
  • Boiling water

These could melt or warp your appliance.

Should You Soak Your Appliance?

prosomnus oral appliance on a white backgroundIn general, it’s not necessary to regularly soak your appliance. Most manufacturers discourage soaking, as cleaning solutions can damage the appliance on prolonged exposure. Manufacturers that recommend soaking say that occasional soaking for short periods is best. 

If a manufacturer recommends soaking, they may supply specific soaking solutions. These are the best cleaners to use when soaking your appliance. Sometimes, they might recommend alternatives (such as denture cleaners). Always ensure you’re using the exact type of soak recommended for your appliance. For example, some appliances might recommend a soak designed for partial dentures, not one for full dentures. 

How to Store Your Appliance

If your appliance came with a case and you still have it, it is the best place to store it. Keep the case in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and temperatures above about 115° F. If you do not have the original case, you can get a replacement or use a hard-sided plastic case with adequate ventilation to allow your appliance to dry between uses. 

Keep the appliance out of reach of children and pets. Dogs like to chew oral appliances, and children are curious about them. They may play with them, leading to damage or loss.

Should You Repair Your Appliance?

In general, you should not attempt to repair your oral appliance. If you detect breaks or problems in your appliance, contact us immediately for an appointment. Wearing a broken appliance could cause problems or lead to poor results. In addition, a repair you attempt at home might fail to fix or worsen the problem. Some repair materials you have at home are toxic to have in your mouth overnight. 

For some appliances, repair at home is possible, even recommended. If so, we will supply you with tools and parts. We will provide instructions to ensure your appliance is fixed correctly and healthy to wear. Even in this case, only attempt a repair if you are fully confident that you understand what is needed to fix the appliance.

Decide if Oral Appliances Are Right for You

As you can see, oral appliances are easy to care for. This helps make them the right choice for many people in Omaha who don’t like or can’t handle the extensive cleaning routine CPAP requires. 

To learn whether an oral appliance is right for you, please call (402) 493-4175 or use our online form today to request an appointment at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha, NE.