Will Oral Appliance Therapy Help GERD?
As with many studies of sleep apnea treatment, it seems that most studies about the impact of treatment on GERD focus on the use of CPAP. This makes it hard to say whether oral appliance therapy will help with GERD symptoms.
There is some evidence that it’s the pressure of CPAP that makes it effective against GERD. Essentially, the air forced into the esophagus reduces the pressure drop that contributes to stomach acid bubbling out of the stomach. This would explain how CPAP can help people even if they don’t have sleep apnea.
However, there are two other factors to consider here. First, it’s important to note that sleep apnea incidents can trigger pressure drops in the esophagus. Reducing the number of apneas a person experiences should reduce the amount of reflux they experience, whether the reduction comes from CPAP or from an oral appliance.
Second, CPAP still has a huge compliance problem. In some of these studies, compliance rates were less than 50% even over six months. This means that most of the people prescribed CPAP aren’t seeing benefit for GERD anyway. It’s worth it for these people to try oral appliance therapy. They will benefit from treating their sleep apnea and might also see improvement in GERD symptoms.