How Does Dental Sleep Medicine Help with Sleep Apnea & Snoring?

How Does Dental Sleep Medicine Help with Sleep Apnea & Snoring?

Dental sleep medicine is the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring with the use of oral sleep appliances. While CPAP machines are initially prescribed for these conditions, they are usually rejected or discontinued by patients due to the complications associated with using them.

Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition affecting approximately 25 million people that can lead to other serious health issues. As we sleep, our muscles relax, collapsing the soft tissue, resulting in the blockage of the airway. The pauses in breathing cause snoring, choking or gasping sounds and can lead to a reduction in oxygen levels. Symptoms include:

  • Morning headache
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Attention problems
  • Loud snoring
  • Irritability

Risks

If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Acid reflux
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Heart disease
  • Death

Diagnosis

If obstructive sleep apnea is suspected, the patient will be referred to a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders and an evaluation will be performed either at a sleep center or at home. A determination will be made after the collected data has been interpreted.

Treatments

There are three options for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea:

  • CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure keeps the airways open with soft air pressure.
  • Oral Appliances are fitted by specialists in sleep dentistry and fit inside the mouth, much like a retainer or mouth guard.
  • Surgery is sometimes the only option, especially with severe cases.

If an oral appliance is selected as the best option for the patient, they will be referred to a practice specializing in dental sleep medicine. A qualified dentist will select the oral appliance to best suit the patients needs. There are currently over 100 FDA approved oral appliances on the market to choose from. These devices cover the upper and lower teeth, re-positioning the jaw and creating a larger airway opening.