Dentists have long been involved in evaluating and treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), going back to the 1980s when oral appliance therapy (OAT) was first introduced. Sleep apnea is a serious concern, and the most effective treatment is often continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. CPAP machines provide a steady flow of air through a mask worn while you sleep, but this treatment method is cumbersome, and you or your partner may find it difficult to tolerate the machine’s noises. Dentists customize OAT devices and are often the first medical professionals to screen for sleep apnea.
Dr. Gordon Bell at The Center for Dental Excellence offers sleep apnea and snoring treatment with oral appliances. He provides TAP® and SomnoMed® oral devices that allow you to rest more peacefully at night. These appliances are customized using highly accurate impressions of your teeth and surrounding tissues. They are specialized mouthguards calibrated to shift your jaw and open the airway to improve breathing while you sleep.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical concern and a chronic health condition that can have severe consequences, decreasing your lifespan and impacting quality of life. This sleep condition interrupts your breathing pattern while you’re sleeping, causing pauses in breathing that may last a few seconds or minutes. Breathing interruptions can happen up to 30 times an hour. Some of the most common warning signs are frequently waking up at night, a dry or sore throat, gasping for air, daytime fatigue and irritability. OSA can lead to high blood pressure and weight gain and increase heart disease and diabetes risks.
OSA and snoring are not always linked, but it’s important to rule out OSA with a sleep medicine physician and a sleep study.
What Is A Dentist’s Role In Sleep Apnea Treatment?
Dentists play an essential part in identifying and evaluating patients who may have sleep apnea. Regular dental exams involve looking at the small upper airway and other anatomical features that increase the risk of OSA. Dr. Bell asks screening questions to identify signs of sleep apnea and can evaluate risk factors. If Dr. Bell suspects snoring and sleep apnea, he takes measurements of the soft palate and uvula and recommends the patients for a sleep study to confirm the diagnosis.
While dentists can detect risk factors and warning signs, follow-up is needed with a sleep specialist, and a home sleep study may be necessary. These medical professionals work together to ensure an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Patients receive the best treatment when managed by a qualified dentist and sleep medicine physician, and a dentist can best determine if oral appliance therapy will improve symptoms and quality of life without a CPAP machine.
Schedule a dental exam if you are experiencing signs of sleep apnea or your partner complains about excessive snoring or gaps in breathing. Dr. Bell can evaluate your case and determine if oral devices are a suitable treatment for your needs.
Contact The Center for Dental Excellence in Hellam, Pennsylvania, at (717) 757-4878 or York, Pennsylvania, at (717) 757-4611 to schedule a sleep apnea consultation with Dr. Bell.