The Role of a Dentist in Treating Sleep Apnea
Today, nearly 25 million adults in the country are affected by sleep apnea, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The statistics are staggering, and the health risks are dangerous. Doctors and healthcare professionals have noticed this growing problem. Now, they are collaborating to develop effective treatment solutions and combat it.
People diagnosed with sleep apnea now have more treatment options than ever and are able to successfully overcome the problem. With effective treatment, the health risks associated with OSA can be alleviated.
As obstructive sleep apnea continues to present an increasing threat to the health of Americans, the medical community is working together to find treatment solutions. Learn about how dentists are working with physicians and sleep clinicians to treat the symptoms of sleep apnea.
What is Dental Sleep Medicine?
An area of specialization for dentists focuses on treating loud snoring and sleep apnea. This field is known as dental sleep medicine. Dentists trained in this field collaborate with doctors and clinicians to find the best treatment plan to address a patient’s sleep disorder. Their role is often to help manage a patient’s snoring and OSA symptoms through oral appliance therapy.
There are two dental appliances which may be recommended, together with CPAP therapy, to treat sleep apnea: mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and tongue-retaining mouthpieces.
Mandibular Advancement Devices
MADs look like athletic mouth guards which fit over the upper and lower sets of teeth. A hinge connects the two trays in the center. This device holds the lower jaw and tongue in a slightly forward position at night. It helps keep the soft tissues in the back of the mouth and throat from blocking the airway when they relax during sleep. Specially trained dentists can adjust the position and fit of MADs to increase comfort and effectiveness.
For sleep apnea sufferers with minimal jaw flexibility, tongue-retaining mouthpieces may be helpful. These oral devices keep the tongue from falling back into the airway while sleeping. It fits around the tongue and holds it in place using a light suction force.
Dental Device Integration with Sleep Apnea Treatment
The first step for successful treatment of obstructive sleep apnea is to talk with your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. Then, a sleep study should be performed to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done either at a certified clinic or at home with the guidance of a clinician.
For most people with sleep apnea, CPAP therapy is recommended as the first treatment measure. Delivering a continuous stream of pressurized air throughout the night, CPAP therapy is the best way to support someone with moderate to severe OSA. Oral devices, including the MAD and tongue-retaining mouthpiece, can help those with mild sleep apnea. Successful treatment may also include using both an oral device and a CPAP machine.
Getting Oral Devices to Treat Sleep Apnea
Oral devices should only be used when recommended by your physician who is overseeing the treatment plan for OSA. These devices are provided by dentists specialized in sleep medicine who then follow up with their patient and help adjust the treatment plan as needed.
Over-the-counter devices for sleep apnea treatment are never recommended. Though these products are cheaper and readily available, they often only alleviate symptoms, such as snoring. Over-the-counter oral devices often do not prevent the dangerous apneas that occur while you are asleep.
What is the Role of Dentists in Treating Sleep Apnea?
Because sleep apnea is a growing threat for Americans and presents such dangerous health risks, doctors and dentists must work together to address the problem. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dentists play a key role in diagnosing patients who are suffering from sleep-related breathing disorders.
By getting a patient’s full medical history, a dentist can identify symptoms and refer them to the appropriate doctor. Then, following a physical evaluation, diagnosis and sleep test, the dentist can help determine if an oral device could be an effective treatment solution. Only those trained in dental sleep medicine can provide the appropriate oral device and optimize the fit for the patient. As the patient continues sleep apnea treatment, the dentist will communicate with the physician to track progress and ensure the best treatment.
Find the Best Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
The journey toward successful management of obstructive sleep apnea and its symptoms should start today. Discuss your concerns with your primary physician and request an overnight sleep evaluation. The trained specialists at Sleep Health Solutions will work with your healthcare providers to effectively diagnose and treat any sleep disorder.
Contact Sleep Health Solutions at (330) 923-0228 or use the contact form below to request a consultation.