IN A RECENT STUDY CONDUCTED BY THE INSTITUTE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IP&D, UNIVERSITY OF VALE DO PARAÍBA, SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL, THE ANSWER IS A RESOUNDING, YES!
A long-term evaluation was conducted reviewing the systematic assessment of the impact of oral appliance therapy on the temporomandibular joint during treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
Their objective was to evaluate the symptoms of temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) in patients with obstructive sleep apnea treated with long-term use of an oral appliance (OA) using a questionnaire based on the Helkimo Anamnestic Dysfunction Index. A further aim of the study was to evaluate the presence of daytime sleepiness using the Epworth Sleep Scale (ESS) and otologic symptoms.
Polysomnograms of 34 patients were performed at baseline and after 6 months of OA use. As follow-up, the patients were contacted by telephone interview to answer the same questionnaires after 36.0 +/- 17.0 months.
As a result, the intensity of TMD symptoms decreased significantly throughout treatment (p < 0.01). ESS values improved from 12.2 +/- 5.0 to 6.9 +/- 2.6 (p < or = 0.05). Tinnitus was present in nine patients at baseline and decreased in intensity in seven patients by the final assessment while remaining at the same level in two patients.
They concluded that long-term usage of an OA does not cause impairment to the temporomandibular joint. The Helkimo and otologic indexes are simple and useful in long-term patient follow-up. There was a long-term improvement in the ESS values over the years analyzed. A follow-up program could increase compliance by motivating patients to use the device regularly.