Study objectives: Oral appliances (OAs) are considered to be a treatment option for patients with obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea syndrome (OSAHS). Although the effectiveness of these appliances has been evaluated in a number of clinical trials, there are few follow-up studies concerning the dental and skeletal side effects that, theoretically, could be caused by OAs. We sought to examine the long-term skeletal and occlusal effects of a nocturnally worn activator in adult patients treated for OSAHS.
Design: We analyzed the dental casts and lateral radiographs of 34 patients (mean age, 52.9 years; SD, 9.6 years; range, 27.1 to 64.6 years) before initiating treatment and after at least 24 months of treatment (mean length of treatment, 29.6 months; range, 24.1 to 43.5 months; SD, 5.1 months). The OA was worn by each patient 6 to 8 h nightly for > 5 days per week.
Setting: Department of Orthodontics, Dental Medical School, Freiburg, Germany.
Measurements and results: Follow-up polysomnography studies confirmed improved breathing parameters with the use of OAs. A statistically significant alteration in the occlusion was found. The anteroposterior position of the molars and the inclination of the upper and lower incisors were changed. No skeletal changes in the position of the mandible were noted.
Conclusions: The data suggest that in addition to control polysomnographic examinations, regular dental follow-up visits are mandatory when lifelong OSAHS treatment with an OA is being considered for patients with obstructive sleep apnea/hypopnea.