Most people know about the services that standard dentists provide and even what various dental specialists do. However, many still do not know that a dentist could help you solve your sleep apnea problems as well. Some root causes of sleep apnea are connected with the set and position of your jaw. The dangerous symptoms could be treated with proper dental care.
Let’s talk about:
- What sleep apnea is
- The types of sleep apnea people have
- How to get diagnosed with sleep apnea
- What sleep apnea treatment is there
- Can it stop snoring
- How a dentist can help you with your sleep apnea problems
- Which appliances can be used to treat sleep apnea
- The pros and cons of sleep apnea dental appliances
What Is Sleep Apnea?
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing during their sleep cycles. This is dangerous because, as you know, one can only go so long without oxygen before deprivation becomes fatal.
The Three Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three different types of sleep apnea that you should know about before seeking out a dentist for help:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This happens when the throat is obstructed or relaxed during sleep
- Central Sleep Apnea: Occurs when the brain stops sending breathing signals to the body
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome: Happens because of a combination of the former two disorders
Which Types of Sleep Apnea Can a Dentist Treat?
Dentists can only help treat the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Your jaw can be fixed into a particular position; however, the brain is not such a simple fix.
How to Get Diagnosed with OSA Through a Dentist
If you suspect that you may have OSA or any other type of sleep apnea, bring it up with your doctor or dentist during an appointment. Together, you will talk about your symptoms and what may contribute to them.
Potential Symptoms of OSA
- Loud snoring
- Gasping for air during sleep or upon waking
- Dry mouth
- Headaches upon waking
- Fatigue or sluggishness; feeling like sleep did not refresh you
- Sleepiness/drowsiness during the day
Of course, these symptoms can be caused by a number of other medical problems, but ruling out sleep apnea by being tested is always a good choice.
Factors Causing OSA
- Your family history can determine whether you have OSA. Your risk is increased if someone else you are closely related to has it.
- Men are at a higher risk of OSA than women.
- The use of depressants like alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers could lead to the development of OSA because they force your throat muscles to relax.
- Fat deposits in your neck weigh on the throat and can obstruct your airway.
- Age has a lot to do with the development of OSA. Older adults have a significantly higher chance of having any form of sleep apnea.
- Smoking increases inflammation in the airway which can stop your breathing during sleep.
While dentists can’t diagnose the condition themselves or determine the results of your sleep study, they can give you the means to find someone who can.
If your medical professional gauges it as necessary based on what you have told them, they can advise that you have a sleep study done by a sleep medicine specialist.
The sleep specialist will assess your results and make a diagnosis based on your study. If you have been diagnosed with OSA, your dentist can offer help.
How a Dentist Can Help Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea
A dentist can’t help you lose weight, be younger, or stop your bad habits, but they can treat the symptoms of your OSA with different mouth guards. These are specifically made for sleep apnea.
How Do They Work?
These mouth guards are designed to keep your jaw in a forward position while you sleep. This keeps it from relaxing too much and collapsing your airway, causing your breathing to stop.
Which Types of Mouth Guards Are There for OSA?
There are two main types of sleep apnea mouth guards that your dentist could recommend to treat your OSA:
- Mandibular Advance Devices. These look quite similar to retainers or sports mouth guards. They snap over your upper and lower teeth and are connected by a metal hinge to keep them together and secure. MADs ensure that your jaw lowered and your tongue keeps forward.
- Tongue Retaining Mouthpieces. These are MADs with one addition: a tongue compartment. It slips over and around your tongue to keep it from falling back onto your throat and over your airway.
Pros and Cons of OSA Dental Appliances
As is true of any other medical treatment or device, these OSA mouth guards come with their own pros and cons. It is up to you to weigh them and decide if they are right for you.
- They are smaller and more compact than other devices to treat sleep apnea like CPAP machines.
- You can travel anywhere with them.
- They make no noise; CPAP machines can keep a person awake at night. These mouth guards won’t.
- Because they do not require electricity, the chances of one failing to stay secure or functional throughout the night are almost zero.
- They are all around more comfortable than a CPAP machine.
- These mouthguards may cause you pain in your jaw or gums.
- They can cause you to salivate more or dry out your mouth.
- These OSA mouthguards have the ability to loosen crowns or dental bridges.
- They can be very expensive, which is restrictive for those looking for affordable solutions.
Finding a Trustworthy Dentist
You need a dentist who can help you treat your obstructive sleep apnea. If you do not have a regular dentist that can point you in the right direction and go over treatment options and appliances, then you need to get one ASAP. Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can be fatal if prolonged without preventative care.
Luckily, we are here to help you find a dentist you can trust. Use our “Find a Dentist” function, or call us at this toll-free number: 1 (888) 420-6826.
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