Although the various air pressure machines are considered the best remedies for sleep apnea, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends dental devices (also known as oral appliances) for people suffering from mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea who can't tolerate a breathing machine.
The most commonly used dental device is known as a mandibular advancement device (MAD). It looks similar to an athlete's mouth guard and attaches to both the upper and lower parts of the mouth. It works by forcing the mandible (jaw bone) forward which has the effect keeping the airway in a more open position and reducing snoring.
The other dental device frequently used to combat sleep apnea is known as a tongue retraining device (TRD). It is made in soft rubber from a mold of the patient's mouth and tongue. It works by keeping the tongue slightly protruded through a suction action. This prevents the tongue from "falling" back into the airway. For this device to be successful, the patient must be able to breathe comfortably through his or her nose.
As with pressurized air machines, the side effects from using dental appliances are fairly benign and can include dry lips, excessive salivation, and discomfort -- especially in the teeth. But for many patients, the relative comfort of sleeping without a full breathing mask attached to a machine outweighs the negatives.