Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of several other chronic health conditions, most notably the following:
High blood pressure
Mood disorders (depression, mania, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder)
Many people with sleep apnea also suffer from fatigue due to poor quality sleep, which can lead to more injuries from workplace accidents, driving accidents, and so on.
How can dentists help with sleep apnea treatment?
Because obstructive sleep apnea can occur due to the mechanics of the mouth and throat (a relaxed tongue/throat muscles, enlarged tonsils, or a small mouth/jaw), dentists can play an important role in treating it.
If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, an appointment with your dentist may reveal some treatment options that your doctor has not mentioned.
The most commonly recommended treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). However, these machines can be difficult for some patients to tolerate and some people simply prefer not to wear a mask when sleeping. Wearing a specially made oral appliance or mouth guard may be an alternative option to consider.
Oral devices made for sleep apnea sufferers may ease mild to moderate sleep apnea symptoms in patients who are not overweight.
Mandibular advancement devices (see below) are the most commonly used. Your dentist can assess your mouth and sleep problems and recommend whether you would be a good candidate for an oral appliance.
If you decide to proceed, you will need a checkup early on to see how well it is working. You should stay in regular contact with your dentist to monitor your sleep apnea symptoms and see if an adjustment or replacement is needed for your device.
The benefits of oral devices for sleep apnea treatment
Oral devices offer some important advantages over CPAP treatment (or surgical intervention) for sleep apnea:
Cost: even the more expensive adjustable devices are more affordable than CPAP machines
Comfort: devices may be uncomfortable at first but most users adjust within a few days
Effectiveness: clinical trials have shown that oral devices are effective in preventing apneas for some patients
Lack of side effects: these devices are custom-made and fit well to reduce possible side effects
Frequency of use: people may use oral devices more regularly than machines because of their relative ease of use
Long-term treatment: over time, oral appliances may improve the strength of the airway and reduce or eliminate apneas
A surgical procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is sometimes used as a last resort for sleep apnea. During this procedure, the surgeon removes soft tissue from the back of the throat. However, its long-term effectiveness is questionable.
Devices used for sleep apnea treatment
The most widely recommended and effective sleep apnea treatments are CPAP machines and dental appliances.
Your choice of treatment will depend on several factors, including the severity of your sleep apnea symptoms, the physical structure of your upper airway, your general medical condition, and your personal preferences.
CPAP machines blow air with continuous pressure down your throat when you sleep, keeping your airways open. They can be effective in easing snoring, improving sleep quality, relieving drowsiness during the daytime, and lowering blood pressure.
CPAP machine consists of three parts:
A mask that fits over your nose and mouth and is held in place with straps
A motor that blows the air
A large tube connecting the motor to the mask
These machines are relatively small, lightweight, and quiet. However, most people do find that they take some getting used to because of confinement feelings from wearing a mask that may need to fit over both the nose and mouth.
A few possible side effects include the following (some of which may be corrected by an adjustment to the mask):
Nasal congestion, runny nose or sinusitis
Sores on the bridge of the nose
Chest muscle pain
Arthritis of the temporal mandibular joint
Mouth devices for sleep apnea
Oral appliances that are worn at night or “dental sleep devices” may be effective for people of normal weight with mild to moderate sleep apnea symptoms and poor tolerance of CPAP treatment.
Mandibular advancement device (MAD)
A mandibular advancement device (MAD) is the most widely used oral device for sufferers of sleep apnea. It looks a little like a sports mouthguard, snapping over the upper and lower dental arches with adjustable metal hinges that ease the lower jaw forward.
By moving the jaw forward, the muscles that collapse during apneas tighten so that they will not fall down when sleeping.
To check whether or not you are a good candidate for a MAD, your dentist will assess your teeth, mouth, and jaw joints. If suitable, your dentist creates a model of your teeth and an oral appliance is tailor-made to precisely fit your mouth.
EVENING & WEEKEND APPOINTMENTS
We understand that you are busy and don’t always have time to visit a dentist for a routine checkup in the middle of your Monday. That’s why we offer extended hours from 7:00 AM to 8:30 PM Monday through Thursday.
We are also open all throughout the weekend. That’s right, we’re open every day of the week.
DIRECT BILLING TO INSURANCE PLANS
To support our clients, we offer direct billing, predeterminations of treatments, and financial arrangements to all our patients to ensure smooth and easy payment transactions.
PAYMENT PLANS & FINANCING AVAILABLE
We understand that dental services can be an unexpected expense. That’s why we offer flexible payment plans and options to suit our patients’ needs. Speak with one of our dental assistants to learn more.
At Sierra Dental, you will never struggle to find parking. Our clinics offer convenient parking options that are free of charge to our patients. It’s one more way we work to put a smile on your face.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to strokes, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart failure. Please see your doctor immediately if you think you may have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can lead to lots of problems, such as:
Snoring (which can be very disruptive for sleeping companions!)
According to one study performed in 2009, the researchers found that giving people undergoing CPAP therapy a sleeping peel (eszopiclone – Lunesta) for the first two weeks helped them get used to the device, which in turn improved compliance later on.
However, clinical practice suggests that people with obstructive sleep apnea should not use sleep medications. This is because these pills tend to relax the airway tissue, increasing the risk of blocking the airway.
Sleep medications can be particularly risky for people with naturally lax tissues around the throat, a narrow airway, or overweight individuals since the extra fat in the neck area can constrict the airway.