Dentists Can Play a Critical Role In the Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic condition in which your muscles relax during sleep and your soft tissue collapses and blocks your airway. As a result, repeated pauses in breathing occur, ranging from just a few seconds to more than a minute. A person with OSA may have these episodes hundreds of times over the course of one night, which subsequently reduces the oxygen levels in the body. These pauses in breathing send signals to your brain that disturb your sleep and often cause you to wake up. In the U.S. alone, about 25 million adults have OSA.
It is common for people who have sleep apnea to not be aware of it. Despite clear signs and symptoms people can go undiagnosed with OSA for an average of seven years. When OSA goes undiagnosed or is left untreated, people can begin to experience a range of worsening symptoms and health conditions.
Severe, untreated sleep apnea can even increase your risk of death without existing comorbidities.
Signs and symptoms of OSA often include snoring, gasping, and/or choking sounds during sleep. OSA can affect both men and women, but is more common in men.
While many people will visit an ENT specialist for treatment, dentists are the first line of defense against sleep apnea. People are likely to visit their dentist at a regular six-month dental appointment before a physical exam with their physician. Dentists work closely with physicians to treat snoring and OSA.
Oral Appliances and Their Advantages
Many patients prefer using a sleep apnea appliance to a CPAP machine. In comparison with a CPAP machine, oral appliances are quiet, comfortable, portable and easy to use and maintain. If you have been diagnosed with mild to moderate sleep apnea, an oral appliance is usually the best choice for you. In some severe cases of sleep apnea, if compliance with a CPAP machine is low, an oral appliance can be a great option.
Our dentist can recommend the type of appliance that is best for you. A custom-fit oral sleep appliance can drastically improve your sleep, which will restore your day time alertness. Patients often report that this can be a life changing treatment. In addition, oral appliance therapy is covered by many medical insurance plans.
Oral appliances are custom made for each individual patient using digital or physical impressions and models of your teeth. These models are sent to a specialized dental lab where the appliance will be made. Once it is ready, you will return to your dentist to adjust the appliance to maximize its comfort and effectiveness.
Treating snoring or OSA with oral appliance therapy can help you feel like a new person. You will most likely find that your symptoms and quality of life can improve dramatically when you commit to your treatment nightly. Through better sleep, patients experience more energy and feel sharper throughout the day. Oral appliance therapy promotes a healthier heart, body, and mind. You may find that your partner begins to sleep better too.