However, Dr. Shirin Shafazand, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that devices such as the one tested in the Korean study, are really for people with mild sleep apnea and should be prescribed only after people have undergone sleep studies to determine the severity of their condition.
"It wasn't a surprise that there is improvement," Shafazand said. "But the numbers are too small to know whether people with severe sleep apnea will truly benefit long-term with this device."
She noted that the severity of the condition was reduced in those with severe sleep apnea, but the best result still reduced it only to the level of moderate sleep apnea.
There are a number of devices available that do the same thing, Shafazand said. But, she added, over-the-counter devices don't really work very well.
"The oral appliances that we recommend are to patients who have the sleep studies, so we know their level of severity," Shafazand said. "If their sleep apnea is mild, and they don't want to use continuous positive airway pressure therapy or can't tolerate it, we refer them to a dentist that fits them properly."
However, given the available options, Shafazand said she prefers to start most people on CPAP therapy.
"I always advise patients to try continuous positive airway pressure therapy, especially if it's moderate to severe," Shafazand said. "It's my first-line agent. If they absolutely can't do continuous positive airway pressure therapy, then oral appliances and surgery are alternatives -- but they are not perfect alternatives."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on sleep apnea.
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