Are oral appliances used in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea a good alternative to the standard continuous positive airway pressure devices? Especially for truck drivers who suffer from this condition? Would they meet new federal guidelines for treating apnea?
They may, according to David McKinney, founder of California Occupational Medical Professionals, and an expert on regulations on driver health qualifications. (He helped develop the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners).
Wait though. This is no ‘carte blanche’ thumbs up and comes with firm guidance for compliance. Drivers have to be diagnosed and monitored for proper treatment with the device. Just getting an oral appliance does not qualify them as treated.
Compliance guidelines are clear and stringent. The driver needs be treated for at least four hours a night and for at least 70% of the time (seven out of 10 nights). Some manufacturers of dental appliances have developed compliance data chips (as in CPAP machines), and some are in the process of doing so.
“Treatment and compliance is the key,” says McKinney. “That will be the real marker for continued commercial certification.”
Though less expensive and cumbersome, oral appliances also pose challenges. Some appliances shift in the mouth which requires adjustment, which may make compliance more difficult. Mckinney recommends that drivers using them will have to prove they are compliant through meticulous monitoring like any other sleep apnea patient. The good news, is several companies are far along in the compliance arena to serve this requirement.