You’ve heard of sleep apnea, and you know it’s a sleep issue. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that nearly 25 million adult Americans have sleep apnea, and it sometimes leads to dangerous health effects like cardiovascular problems.
But as you know, sleep apnea involves the mouth. So is it a sleep medicine issue, an oral health issue, or both? Can your dentist help with sleep apnea?
Yes, they can. Dental sleep medicine is a specialty area in which dentists can help treat sleep-related disorders like snoring and sleep apnea. These dental professionals often collaborate closely with other physicians to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
Now, what sleep apnea treatment does a dentist usually recommend?
Oral Appliance Therapy
There are two options for a typical sleep apnea treatment regimen. For mild sleep apnea cases, one option is oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances are mouthguards that are custom-made to fit your mouth. There are two primary categories of mouthguards for sleep apnea and snoring: Mandibular advancement devices (MADs) and tongue retaining devices (TRDs).
MADs work by pushing the lower jaw forward to open up the airway and prevent snoring. TRDs are usually the go-to solution for back sleepers who snore, because they grip the tongue and prevent it from falling into the back of the throat during sleep.
Oral appliance therapy works for treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and snoring. Dentists agree that there are many benefits to using oral appliance therapy for the treatment of sleep apnea and snoring because these devices are:
- Convenient for travel
- Easy to clean
- Easy to wear
Your health and quality of life matter, and sleep is a huge part of that. Not to mention there are dangerous health risks associated with undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea, including high blood pressure or heart problems. The more restful, restorative sleep you get, the healthier you will be.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy
The other treatment method for sleep apnea that your dentist may recommend is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This is the go-to sleep apnea treatment for moderate to severe cases and is usually prescribed by a sleep medicine specialist or primary care physician rather than a dentist.
CPAP therapy involves the use of a breathing device that delivers a continuous stream of pressurized air throughout the night. This prevents the disruption in breathing that typically occurs from sleep apnea.
Not everyone needs CPAP therapy for sleep apnea. Dentists work together with physicians to identify the best treatment for each patient, so if oral appliance therapy isn’t working, your doctor may encourage you to try CPAP therapy.
All in all: Yes, a dentist can help with sleep apnea. Talking to your dentist is the best first step towards finding a long-term solution for a sleeping problem like sleep apnea. But it’s a good idea to consult both your dentist and your primary care physician to determine the best next steps.
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