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Travel Alternative to CPAP

If you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you probably know that traveling with a CPAP can be a hassle, especially if you’re flying. The bulky machine, mask, tubing and humidifier chamber take up about half the space in a standard airline carry-on bag, leaving you with precious little room for your clothes and other items.

travel size oral appliance for Sleep Apnea

Leave the humidifier behind and you gain a little extra wiggle room—but then you’re committing to sleeping with dry air coming into your nose and mouth for the duration of your trip.

Add to that the fact that TSA agents will ask to inspect your bag. TSA inspection of your CPAP is a minor inconvenience, but one that will hold you back from racing to make a flight if you’re running late. (Plus, you need a few extra moments to re-pack your bag after you get through the conveyor belt line.)

Adventure travelers with apnea have all those issues, plus more. Camping or staying in hotels or in a bed and breakfast means you need an electrical outlet or battery pack near the bed or tent (or a hookup for your camper).

If you’re staying in a foreign country, you’ll need a converter so you can plug into the unfamiliar outlets. And though CPAPs today are available in portable sizes with extra battery packs and even solar chargers, these slick new models aren’t always covered by insurance (and they still take up precious space in your backpack or roller bag).

If any of these CPAP travel annoyances sound familiar to you, you may be interested to learn that Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) devices or splints—similar to mouth guards—can be handy alternatives to CPAP for frequent travelers with apnea.

Oral appliances for apnea are especially convenient for frequent flyers and adventure travelers who like to “pack light,” and for those who like to take extended naps or sleep sessions in spots where they may not be able to set up a full CPAP kit, due to lack of electricity or space constraints. (For example, trail-side in the woods, or on a beach.)

What Kind of Travelers Can Use Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT)?

If your OSA is severe and you can tolerate CPAP under normal conditions at home, you probably are not a good candidate for OAT. If you are someone who won’t travel with your CPAP or won’t be able to use it on your trip, then talk to your sleep physician about using an oral appliance during this time with the understanding you will continue to wear your CPAP at home.

travel size oral appliance for sleep apnea

However, if you have mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and hate traveling with the bulk of a CPAP, you could be in luck. Oral appliances are now approved as a first-line therapy for treating mild to moderate OSA. If your sleep apnea events—partial or complete losses of breath while sleeping—number 5 to 30 per hour, your doctor may give you the option of using an oral appliance to open up your airway and ease your breathing.

In other words, it’s possible the oral appliance may work just as well for you as your CPAP, with much greater portability and a lot less hassle. And because it’s an approved therapy for your type of apnea, it may also be covered by your insurance.

What Exactly Is Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT)?

An oral appliance, also known as a sleep apnea mouthpiece, is a custom-fitted splint you wear in your mouth while you sleep. An oral appliance keeps your airway open by sliding your lower jaw forward—just enough to make extra room at the back of the throat for the tongue and any excess soft tissue in the upper throat.

By creating this extra room, your airway is no longer blocked by an obstruction. You can sleep easily without any pauses or interruptions in your breathing—and without snoring.

Over 100 different styles of oral appliance are FDA-approved for use in the treatment of snoring and mild-moderate OSA. To some degree, all of these sleep apnea mouthpieces resemble an orthodontic retainer or sports mouth guard. When you have a mouthpiece made, it will come with its own carrying case for storage and travel.

travel alternative to cpap machines

Who Makes the Oral Appliance for Apnea?

Dentists specially trained to practice dental sleep medicine—2800 board-certified, credentialed professionals worldwide—can create custom sleep apnea dental devices for patients. The mouthpiece is custom designed to fit comfortably over your teeth.

Your sleep medicine dentist, together with your sleep specialist physician, will recommend an appliance that’s suitable for you.

To learn more about oral appliance therapy as an alternative option to CPAP, call Park Dental Care in Sherwood Park today at (780) 467-2444.