Mandibular Advancement Splint vs. CPAP

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Let’s explore the differences between mandibular advancement splint vs CPAP. Sleep apnea is a common yet potentially serious sleep disorder characterised by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions can lead to poor sleep quality and various health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cognitive impairment. Two primary treatments for sleep apnea are the Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS) and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). This article provides a comprehensive comparison between these two treatment options, examining their mechanisms, effectiveness, user comfort, and potential side effects.

Mandibular Advancement Splints

Mandibular Advancement Splint (MAS): A Mandibular Advancement Splint is an oral appliance designed to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by repositioning the lower jaw (mandible) forward. This forward positioning increases the size of the upper airway and reduces the likelihood of airway collapse during sleep. The MAS typically consists of two pieces that fit over the upper and lower teeth and are connected by adjustable mechanisms to control the degree of mandibular advancement.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): CPAP therapy involves the use of a machine that delivers a continuous stream of air through a mask worn over the nose or mouth. This constant air pressure keeps the airway open, preventing the collapse that causes apneas and hypopneas. CPAP is considered the gold standard for treating moderate to severe OSA and is highly effective in reducing apnea episodes.


Mandibular Advancement Splint: The effectiveness of MAS varies depending on the severity of the sleep apnea and the individual patient’s anatomy. Studies have shown that MAS can significantly reduce the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) in patients with mild to moderate OSA. However, its effectiveness may be limited in patients with severe OSA or specific anatomical challenges. Approximately 60-70% of patients with mild to moderate OSA experience a substantial reduction in symptoms with MAS therapy.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: CPAP is highly effective in treating all severity levels of OSA. It can eliminate apneas and hypopneas in most patients when used correctly. Studies consistently show that CPAP reduces AHI to normal levels in 80-90% of patients. Its effectiveness is particularly pronounced in patients with severe OSA, making it the preferred treatment option for these individuals.

User Comfort and Compliance

Mandibular Advancement Splint: One of the significant advantages of MAS is its comfort and ease of use. Patients often find MAS less intrusive than CPAP, leading to higher compliance rates. The device is compact, portable, and does not require electricity, making it convenient for travel. However, some patients may experience initial discomfort, including jaw pain, dental discomfort, or excessive salivation. These side effects usually diminish as patients acclimate to the device.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: CPAP therapy, while highly effective, can be cumbersome and uncomfortable for some patients. Common complaints include nasal congestion, dry mouth, skin irritation from the mask, and a feeling of claustrophobia. The noise from the machine can also be disruptive for some users. These discomforts often lead to lower compliance rates, with studies indicating that 30-50% of patients abandon CPAP therapy within the first year. Efforts to improve CPAP comfort, such as heated humidifiers, nasal pillows, and auto-titrating machines, have been somewhat successful, but compliance remains a significant challenge.

Side Effects and Risks

Mandibular Advancement Splint: While MAS is generally well-tolerated, it is not without potential side effects. Common issues include temporomandibular joint (TMJ) discomfort, dental misalignment, and changes in bite. Long-term use can sometimes lead to permanent changes in dental structure. Regular follow-up with a dental professional is essential to monitor and manage these side effects.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: CPAP therapy’s side effects are typically related to the mask and airflow. These can include nasal dryness, congestion, sinus infections, and skin irritation. Some patients may also experience aerophagia (swallowing air), leading to bloating and discomfort. While these side effects can often be managed with proper mask fitting and adjustments, they can still impact overall compliance and quality of life.

Cost Considerations

Mandibular Advancement Splint: The cost of MAS varies widely depending on the type of device and the provider. Custom-fitted devices, which are generally more effective and comfortable, can cost between $2,000 and $4,500. Insurance coverage for MAS varies, with some plans covering a portion of the cost if the device is deemed medically necessary.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure: CPAP machines and accessories can be relatively expensive, with the initial cost ranging from $500 to $2,000. This includes the machine, mask, and necessary accessories. Ongoing costs for mask replacement, filters, and other supplies can add up over time. Most insurance plans cover CPAP therapy, though patients may still be responsible for copayments and deductibles.


Choosing between a Mandibular Advancement Splint and CPAP therapy for sleep apnea treatment depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition, patient preferences, and tolerance for each treatment modality. CPAP remains the most effective treatment, particularly for severe OSA, but its comfort and compliance issues can be significant drawbacks. MAS offers a less intrusive alternative, especially for those with mild to moderate OSA, but its effectiveness may not be sufficient for everyone.

Ultimately, a thorough evaluation by a sleep specialist, including a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of each treatment option, is essential for making an informed decision. Regular follow-up and adjustments are crucial to ensure the chosen treatment remains effective and comfortable over time.