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Alternatives to CPAP

Cross Dentistry » Blog » Alternatives to CPAP
A dark haired man standing in front of a white background holding up a CPAP mask and staring at the camera with a look of dread.

Is there a CPAP Alternative when it comes to sleep apnea?  The CPAP machine with the face mask has been the most widely recommended treatment for almost all those diagnosed with sleep apnea.  But what happens if you can’t, won’t or don’t get used to wearing the mask at night?  What are your options?  Let’s look at some safe CPAP Alternatives.

Research statistics and conclusions

There have been numerous research studies done to find CPAP Alternatives because, as the studies have shown, compliance with continued use of the CPAP machine and mask has not been the case for many sleep apnea sufferers.  What are the reasons?  Some report they cannot get used to the mask and have tried the little nose inserts, but still do not consistently use their CPAP machine.  Others say the noise of the CPAP machine is a hindrance and therefore do not use their CPAP machine like they should.  Still others say they use their CPAP machine only when they are really tired or when they remember to.  Inconsistency and continuous usage is the biggest obstacle to CPAP success.  That being the case, what are your options?

CPAP Alternatives

If you are one of the thousands diagnosed each year with sleep apnea, you are not alone.  The standard treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine which uses an attached hose and mask to be worn at night.  If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and use your CPAP machine without any issues, you are in the minority.  For those of you that have issues using the CPAP machine, there are options.  Let’s look at the most popular ones.

  1. Oral Appliance or Dental Device
  2. Bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP)
  3. Positional Therapy
  4. Acupuncture
  5. Surgery

We’ll look at each of these to see what may be best for you.

Oral Appliance or Dental Device

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are one of the many that cannot, will not, or do not want to use a CPAP machine, you may want to consider seeing a qualified dentist like Jeffrey W. Cross, D.D.S., F.A.G.D, in Frederick, MD that can make you an oral appliance or dental device that will aid in getting you a good night’s sleep.  With over 40 different dental devices on the market, two have proven to be the most popular.  They are: Tongue Retaining Device (TRD) and the Mandibular Repositioning Device (MRD).

  • Tongue Retaining Device (TRD) repositions the tongue to prevent it from falling back into the throat and blocking the airway.
  • Mandibular Repositioning Device (MRD) holds the mandible (jawbone) forward while you sleep thus allowing more air to pass through the airway.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these devices, so let’s look at them.

Advantages: less noticeable, quiet, doesn’t need electricity and relatively inexpensive when compared to CPAP machine.

Disadvantages: increased salivation, may not be tolerated well, may cause discomfort, soreness or gagging.

Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)

Like a CPAP, this is a machine that forces oxygen into the mouth using a mask.  Unlike the CPAP, this machine has a lower pressure level setting for exhaling.  Using this machine will still require you to wear a mask like a CPAP, but will make exhaling against the pressure less of an effort.

Positional Therapy

Positional therapy has been used for many years and involves making the wearer sleep on their side to avoid snoring.  Those that will benefit from positional therapy are those with mild to moderate sleep apnea.  With positional therapy the user will wear either an anti-snore shirt or a bumper belt which will cause the wearer to sleep on their side.  An anti-snore shirt is one that has had a pocket sewn on the center back of a shirt or pajama top and a tennis ball is then inserted into the pocket.  Once the wearer lies down, the tennis ball keeps them from sleeping on their back.  This is the same methodology used in a bumper belt in that a wide belt is worn with an attached “bumper” on it that will prevent the user from sleeping on their back.   A body pillow can be used with the same results.


In a study conducted in Brazil where acupuncture is considered normal when it comes to healthcare, Acupuncture has shown to decrease sleep apnea events during the night.  It is thought that acupuncture reduces inflammation and increases serotonin, thus resulting in a better nights’ sleep.


As a last resort, you can have surgery to possibly improve your sleep.  When surgery is done, the surgeon will go in and trim up or shorten the uvula thus trying to open the airway of the throat up and reduce snoring.

If you have tried a CPAP and it just isn’t for you, there are many CPAP Alternatives available, so discuss them with your doctor, surgeon or dentist.

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