Dentistry's Role in Diagnosing Sleep ApneaBarotz Dental | October 9, 2023
Sleep apnea is a prevalent yet often overlooked sleep-related breathing disorder. While the common perception is that sleep disorders fall under the domain of sleep specialists or pulmonologists, the role of dentistry in diagnosing and managing sleep apnea is increasingly being recognized.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes your breathing to stop and start repeatedly while you sleep. It can lead to a range of health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cognitive difficulties. This disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of partial or complete upper airway obstruction during sleep, leading to disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. Central sleep apnea, less common, involves the brain failing to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. Regardless of the type, untreated sleep apnea can lead to severe health complications and a diminished quality of life.
Given these potential health risks and the high prevalence of sleep apnea, it becomes clear why it is referred to as a silent epidemic. Increased awareness, timely diagnosis, and effective treatment are paramount in managing this silent epidemic.
The Role of Dentistry in Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
As oral health professionals, dentists are in a unique position to identify potential signs of this sleep disorder. Dentists can identify potential indicators of sleep apnea during routine dental examinations. For instance, patients with sleep apnea often grind their teeth – a condition known as bruxism. Evidence of tooth wear, damage to the oral tissue, or enlarged tongue or tonsils may also indicate the presence of sleep apnea. Dentists can also take a detailed history of symptoms like dry mouth or morning headaches, which can also be signs of this sleep disorder.
Dentists play a critical role in the ongoing management and treatment of sleep apnea, particularly through the use of oral appliances.
Dental Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
When it comes to the management of sleep apnea, dental treatments are increasingly becoming a viable option. While the gold standard treatment for sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, not all patients tolerate this treatment well. This is where dental treatments can offer a beneficial alternative.
Oral appliance therapy is one of the most common dental treatments for sleep apnea. This treatment involves wearing a custom-fitted oral appliance during sleep to maintain an open, unobstructed airway. These appliances work by repositioning the jaw and tongue or by retaining the tongue to prevent it from blocking the airway.
The Importance of Oral Appliances in Sleep Apnea Treatment
Oral appliances have emerged as a significant tool in the arsenal of sleep apnea treatments. They offer several advantages over other treatment options, including comfort, portability, and ease of use.
Oral appliances are particularly beneficial for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy or find it inconvenient. They are also an excellent option for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea or those who travel frequently. However, it's crucial to note that the effectiveness of an oral appliance can vary from person to person. Regular follow-ups with your dentist are essential to ensure the appliance is working correctly and to make necessary adjustments.
Additionally, oral appliances are not only useful in treating sleep apnea but also in managing snoring. They can significantly reduce the intensity and frequency of snoring, leading to improved sleep quality for both the patient and their bed partner.
Improve Your Sleep with the Help of a Dentist Today
Sleep apnea is a serious and widespread sleep disorder that requires timely diagnosis and effective treatment. Through routine dental examinations, dentists can identify potential signs of sleep apnea and provide effective treatment options, particularly through the use of oral appliances.
If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, don't hesitate to consult our dentist. With our knowledge and expertise, we can guide you towards a path to better sleep and improved overall health. Visit Barotz Dental at our office in Denver, Colorado. Please call (720) 573-1500 to schedule an appointment today.