Tongue Retaining Device

CPAP Masks Do Not Always Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder which produces significant pauses in breathing while an individual is sleeping at night. The lack of oxygen circulation throughout the body during sleep can then cause the person to feel ways tired during waking hours and can sometimes lead to very serious health issues, such as heartburn, irritability, dryness, headaches, impotence, stroke, heart attacks and depression. Once obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed, it should be treated diligently because the symptoms may worsen over time and possibly cause problems in a person’s ability to thrive socially and professionally. Usually, the condition is treated with a device called a CPAP machine, which creates and maintains continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) in the person’s mouth and respiratory passages using devices called CPAP masks. The increased air pressure inside the person’s throat is supposed to keep the area open for better breathing and easier oxygen intake.

However, CPAP machines and CPAP masks do not work for all patients. Some patients find the machine loud and dislike being connected to a machine by the bedside all night long. Other sleep apnea patients may simply have a certain kind of physical obstruction in their mouths or throats which prohibits continuous positive airway pressure from being effective in improving sleep breathing. One example can be found in patients whose obstruction occurs as a result of physical obstacles in the mouth, as opposed to the inside of the throat, such as the tonsils or tongue; enlarged or moving organs such as the tongue may keep air from effectively entering the respiratory passage during the instances of very shallow breath (hypopneas) or the pauses in breath (apneas).

An Alternative to CPAP Masks with Tongue Retaining Devices

There are several types of dental devices available for patients who do not respond well to traditional CPAP masks, CPAP machines, BIPAP masks or BIPAP machines. One of these is a tongue retaining device, also called TRD. Constructed using a similar method as mouth guards, night guards (for teeth grinding and teeth clenching) and other devices designed to keep passage for air to the lungs open, a tongue retaining device is supposed to hold a person’s tongue near the front of the mouth and prevent backward movement that may cause the throat to become blocked. The tongue retaining device is made of a malleable polyvinyl that fits around a person’s mouth shape and teeth on both the top and bottom rows. In between the two rows, there is a hollow, bubble-shaped sphere made of the same material which creates negative air pressure, like in a vacuum, which is meant to keep the tongue forward.

The person wearing the tongue retaining device cannot bite down or touch his top and bottom teeth, so tongue retaining devices are especially useful for obstructive sleep apnea patients who also have a problem with teeth grinding and teeth clenching (bruxism). In addition to the tongue retaining device simpler models called the AveoTSD also known as a “tongue stabilizing device” are also available when CPAP masks do not work properly. In sleep studies, these devices designed to manipulate the sleep apnea patient’s tongues have been shown to be as effective as mandibular advancement devices. Contact a sleep doctor if you'd like to learn mroe about tongue retaining devices.