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How Can a Dentist Help with Sleep Apnea?

Sleeping with Sleep Apnea

Sleeping with Sleep Apnea

If you have sleep apnea, or are close to someone who does, then you’re probably already aware of the importance of keeping up with your treatments and regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. For many people, this means daily use of a CPAP machine and frequent visits to a physician. But did you know that a dentist can also help with sleep apnea?

Most people probably associate a CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device, as the main treatment for sleep apnea. There are, however, a host of other available treatment options that many people are not aware of. One of these is the use of oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances are an effective treatment option for many people suffering from this disease.

What Exactly is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes an individual to stop breathing during sleep. Episodes range from as few as a couple of times per night to hundreds of times per night in moderate to severe cases. This happens when the airway becomes obstructed from the relaxing of soft muscle tissue. It can be caused, or worsened, by being overweight and sometimes simple lifestyle changes that promote good health can improve the condition.

As you may imagine, this continuous interruption in sleep presents many ongoing health related issues such as:

  • diabetes
  • increased anxiety
  • agitation
  • weight gain
  • higher levels of stress hormones
  • irregular heartbeat
  • hypertension
  • increased likelihood of heart attack

Add to these to the overall feeling of grogginess and decreased ability to focus throughout the day, and sleep apnea becomes a major debilitating factor for those who suffer from the disease.

How Does a Dentist Fit into My Sleep Apnea Treatment Plan?

Before discussing the ways in which a dentist can positively impact your sleep apnea symptoms, it’s important to note that, while there are many things a dentist can do to assist, you will still probably need to meet with your physician to obtain a diagnosis for sleep apnea, if you don’t already have one. Some insurance companies might also require a referral from your physician before seeking treatment for sleep apnea from your dentist. Either way, a quick phone call to your insurance company, dentist, and/or physician should give you the answers you need.

Once you have an established diagnosis and have obtained a referral if needed, then it’s time to make the appointment and discover what the dentist might recommend for your individual needs. Your dental team will conduct a full evaluation and exam to determine what method will work best for you. Generally, this will come in the form of oral appliance therapy.

What is Oral Appliance Therapy?

As mentioned earlier, many people associate CPAP as the main treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP works by sending pressurized air through a tube that is connected to a machine at one end, and to a mask worn over the nose, and sometimes also the mouth, of the user at the other end. This helps to keep the airway open during sleep. While many people certainly do find success with this method, thousands of others have difficulty tolerating it. Some have a hard time sleeping with the mask covering their face, while others find the tubing a little too restrictive on movement. Still others have a hard time getting used to the noise of the machine, although modern technological advances have reduced the amount of noise the machine emits by a significant amount over the years.

For those who have difficulty tolerating CPAP to treat their sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy is an excellent alternative. This type of therapy utilizes a mouthguard, similar in many ways to what an athlete might wear during a sporting activity or a retainer used by an orthodontic patient. The mouthguard works by helping to keep the jaw in a forward position, which in turn keeps the airway open. There are several different types of oral appliance therapy devices, and your dentist will work with you to determine which will work best for your individual needs.

What Are the Benefits of Treating OSA with Oral Appliance Therapy?

One of the greatest benefits of this therapy is that it is a viable alternative for those individuals suffering from sleep apnea that are otherwise unable to tolerate CPAP. Of course, as with any medical device, there will still likely be an adjustment period, but for those seeking relief from symptoms of sleep apnea, the adjustment will likely be worth it.

Oral appliance therapy has been shown through rigorous research to be effective and it is also very affordable compared to other forms of treatment methods. Even adjustable models, which can be a little more costly, are still much less than some other forms of treatment, including CPAP.  In addition, it is less risky than surgery, which is sometimes used as a last resort treatment for advanced cases of sleep apnea and oral appliance therapy is often covered by health insurance. And, with custom made devices, they will fit well and are comfortable.

How Can I Find a Dentist That Treats Sleep Apnea?

A simple call or visit to your family dentist will probably give you the information you need to locate a sleep apnea dental professional. You may also choose to contact your health insurance company or speak to your physician’s office. In some cases, you may need a referral from your physician before seeking treatment from a dentist for sleep apnea. Be sure to investigate before making your appointment. If these referral sources don’t work for you, consider contacting the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine for further assistance.

Learn more about using oral appliancea for sleep apnea treatment and contact Mark Levy DDS at (614) 777-7350 today. Our helpful staff is standing by to make sure you get the care you need. We treat hundreds of patients suffering from sleep disorders. Our biggest goal is to help you get the quality sleep you need. Learn about alternative treatment options to CPAP therapy today.

Call Mark Levy DDS today at (614)777-7350 to learn more about treating your sleep apnea with oral appliances.