CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) can be a highly effective treatment for sleep apnea. However, it’s not for everyone. Right now, even the people who adapt well to CPAP are having trouble with the treatment because of a nationwide shortage of CPAP machines. Worse, many people are unable to start CPAP therapy because they can’t get a machine to start treatment. 

This is a perfect time for many people to consider oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy is as effective as CPAP for many people, and it can circumvent the supply chain and other problems that are plaguing the CPAP industry right now. 

Want to learn whether you are a candidate for oral appliance therapy in Lee’s Summit? Please call (816) 795-1000 today for an appointment at the Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea. 

The Origins of the CPAP Shortage

The roots of the CPAP shortage are in the worldwide chip shortage. As with other manufacturers, CPAP makers were competing to get access to a relatively limited supply of computer chips. The chip shortage itself was caused primarily by shutdowns at manufacturing plants caused by COVID-19, but ongoing effects of the US-China trade war and even droughts in Taiwan further restricted supply.

Even as supplies were being restricted, demand for CPAP machines increased. Possible interactions between sleep apnea and COVID-19 inspired some people to get tested for sleep apnea or seek treatment for previously diagnosed apnea. In addition, CPAP machines were used as noninvasive ventilator units for COVID-19 patients.

Just when CPAP suppliers were starting to get a handle on the situation, it became even more complicated. The largest manufacturer of CPAP machines, Philips Respironics, issued a huge recall of many of its CPAP machines.

The noise-dampening foam used in many of Philips’ CPAP machines and home-respirators was breaking down. This led to small pieces of foam and toxic fumes getting into the air tubes. Some people reported getting sick as a result, and Philips warned that there could be even more serious long-term effects.

As necessary as this recall was, it removed more than 2 million CPAP machines and respirators from the market. People who were using these machines suddenly needed replacements. Meanwhile, Philips’ ability to deliver new CPAP machines was cut deeply as it sought replacement materials.

As other manufacturers attempted to scale up production to meet the new demand, they re-encountered the difficulties that led to the initial CPAP shortage, especially the ongoing chip shortage. Currently, CPAP supplies are being allocated to major distributors on a limited basis, leading to quite long delays in getting CPAP for some people.

Manufacturers expect this shortage to last well into 2022

Can You Get Oral Appliance Therapy Instead?

People waiting on CPAP machines continue to suffer the negative effects of untreated sleep apnea. This can include low energy, depressed mood or irritability, falling asleep at work or behind the wheel, and more. These impact your quality of life every day, and can make the six to eight weeks you have to wait for a CPAP machine seem a dreadfully long time.

However, many people don’t have to wait for a CPAP machine. Instead, they can treat their sleep apnea more quickly with oral appliance therapy. 

You should consider oral appliance therapy if you have:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Mild to moderate sleep apnea
  • Severe sleep apnea but couldn’t adapt to CPAP

Oral appliance therapy only treats obstructive sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea occurs when your airway collapses during sleep. Oral appliances help hold your airway open during sleep so you can keep breathing. However, oral appliances don’t treat central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t tell your body to breathe.

Oral appliance therapy is most effective for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea. If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea (apnea / hypopnea index (AHI) of 5-30), oral appliance therapy is considered a front-line treatment. You can get good results, and your insurance will generally cover getting an oral appliance for this level of sleep apnea.

People with severe sleep apnea (AHI greater than 30) should try CPAP before getting oral appliance therapy. However, for people who find it hard to adapt to CPAP, switching to oral appliance therapy is still effective. 

Treat Your Sleep Apnea Now in Lee’s Summit

If you are tired of waiting for a CPAP machine, or if this recall was the last straw in your struggles to live with CPAP, we can help. Sleep dentists Dr. Larry Pribyl and Dr. Jim Kleoppel can use our advanced technology to determine the exact source of your airway collapse. Then we can help you find the type of appliance that will work best for your sleep apnea.

Want to try oral appliance therapy for your sleep apnea? Please call (816) 795-1000 or use our online form to contact the Center for TMJ & Sleep Apnea in Lee’s Summit, MO.