Will My Mouthguard Fix My Severe Sleep Apnea?

fatTired person, who suffers from sleep apnea, sleeping at work.

At Texas Sinus and Snoring, we have established a Center of Excellence dedicated to addressing snoring and sleep apnea mouth guard solutions. This means that we have dentists, neurologists and sleep doctors that work together to find the best solution for you.

Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. While snoring is a common precursor to sleep apnea, the condition can escalate in severity, leading to significant health risks if left untreated.

For individuals with severe sleep apnea, exploring treatment options is essential to improve sleep quality, alleviate symptoms, and reduce long-term health complications.

This essay will delve into the origins of snoring and how it evolves into sleep apnea, discuss the diagnostic criteria for sleep apnea, differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe sleep apnea based on sleep study findings, explore typical treatments for severe sleep apnea, and review the FDA-approved Vivos oral appliance as a promising intervention for sleep apnea management.

Origins of Snoring and Evolution into Sleep Apnea:

Snoring, the noisy breathing sound produced during sleep, often serves as an early warning sign of potential sleep apnea development.

Snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is obstructed, causing tissue vibration in the upper airway. Factors such as obesity, anatomical anomalies, nasal congestion, and muscle relaxation can contribute to snoring, especially during sleep.

At Texas Sinus and Snoring we evaluate all of our patients with CT scanners and nasal endoscopes to understand your nasal obstruction and develop a plan that is tailored to your particular problem.

Over time, chronic snoring may progress into sleep apnea, a more serious sleep disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of complete or partial airway obstruction during sleep.

These obstructions lead to interruptions in breathing, oxygen desaturation, and disruptions in normal sleep patterns. As a consequence, individuals with sleep apnea may experience daytime fatigue, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular complications, and diminished quality of life.

Diagnostic Criteria of Sleep Apnea:

The diagnosis of sleep apnea is typically established through a combination of clinical assessment and objective testing.

Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Medical history, physical examination, and sleep questionnaires can aid in identifying individuals at risk for sleep apnea.

Additionally, overnight sleep studies, such as polysomnography or home sleep apnea testing, are crucial for confirming the diagnosis and determining the severity of the condition.

woman packing an overnight bag for sleep study

Sleep studies monitor breathing patterns, oxygen levels, heart rate, and other sleep parameters to categorize sleep apnea into different severity levels.

Mild, Moderate, and Severe Sleep Apnea Based on Sleep Study Findings:

Sleep apnea severity is classified based on the number of breathing pauses per hour of sleep, known as the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI).

The following criteria are used to characterize the severity of sleep apnea:

  1. Mild Sleep Apnea: AHI between 5 and 15 events per hour. Individuals with mild sleep apnea may experience mild to moderate symptoms and are at risk of health complications if left untreated.
  1. Moderate Sleep Apnea: AHI between 15 and 30 events per hour. Moderate sleep apnea is associated with more frequent breathing interruptions during sleep, leading to increased daytime sleepiness and impaired cognitive function.
  1. Severe Sleep Apnea: AHI greater than 30 events per hour. Severe sleep apnea poses a significant health risk, as individuals with this level of severity may experience frequent and prolonged breathing pauses, leading to severe daytime impairment and systemic consequences.

Typical Treatments for Severe Sleep Apnea:

The management of severe sleep apnea often involves a multimodal approach to address airway obstruction, improve breathing patterns, and promote restful sleep.

Common treatments for severe sleep apnea include:

- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy: CPAP delivers pressurized air through a mask worn over the nose or mouth during sleep, preventing airway collapse and maintaining open air passages.

- Oral Appliances: Mandibular advancement devices or oral appliances can be used to reposition the jaw and tongue during sleep, reducing airway constriction and improving breathing. These oral appliances usually work well for mild to moderate sleep apnea but until this past year were not approved for severe sleep apnea.

- Lifestyle Modifications: Weight management, regular exercise, positional therapy, and avoidance of alcohol and sedatives can help alleviate symptoms and enhance sleep quality in individuals with severe sleep apnea.

- Surgical Interventions: The most successful FDA approved treatment for severe sleep apnea is the Inspire implant. It first appeared on the scene in 2010 and was FDA approved in 2014. It involves gentle stimulation of the tissues of the tongue and airway.

In all metrics that we measure, the inspire implant is superior to the CPAP machine in outcomes. For individuals with severe anatomical obstructions or non-responsive to conservative treatments, surgical options such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) or maxillomandibular advancement may be considered to address airway blockages.

Vivos appliance

Newly FDA Approved Vivos Oral Appliance:

The Vivos oral appliance, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), represents a promising innovation in the treatment of sleep apnea. This appliance is designed to address underlying structural imbalances in the oral cavity, aiming to optimize airway patency and reduce apnea episodes during sleep.

The Vivos system utilizes principles of craniofacial development and neuromuscular re-education to promote proper alignment of the jaw, tongue, and soft tissues in the upper airway. By encouraging natural growth and expansion of the airway space, the Vivos oral appliance seeks to alleviate airway obstruction, improve breathing efficiency, and enhance overall sleep quality in individuals with sleep apnea.


In conclusion, severe sleep apnea poses significant health risks and challenges to affected individuals, necessitating comprehensive evaluation and tailored treatment approaches to improve outcomes.

By understanding the origins of snoring and the progression to sleep apnea, recognizing diagnostic criteria, distinguishing between mild, moderate, and severe apnea, exploring conventional treatments, and contemplating innovative interventions like the FDA-approved Vivos oral appliance, individuals with severe sleep apnea can access effective solutions to manage their condition and restore restful sleep.

The combined efforts of healthcare providers, sleep specialists, and patients in navigating the complexities of severe sleep apnea pave the way for enhanced quality of life, improved sleep hygiene, and better health outcomes for those impacted by this debilitating sleep disorder.