Sleep Apnea Screening and Your Dentist

A tablet reading "Obstructive Sleep Apnea" sits on a desk next to a stethoscope.

Your next dental visit may include some new questions from your dentist. These could include:

  • Do you feel tired all day long?
  • Do you snore?
  • Do you wake up with headaches and a sore throat?
  • Ever fallen asleep while driving?

If you answer yes to several of the screening questions listed, it’s indicative that you might suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Your dentist may refer you to a sleep specialist for further assessment and diagnosis.

Why should your dentist be concerned about your sleep? Obstructive sleep apnea, like other medical disorders associated with dental treatment (such as strokes and heart attacks), has a dental component. The connection, on the other hand, is that dentistry may help you treat and alleviate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

Patients with sleep apnea stop breathing at night because the soft palate collapses and obstructs the upper airway. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is the most common therapy, which entails wearing a breathing mask to go to bed. Unfortunately, many patients find it difficult to sleep with the CPAP device, and of those prescribed the machine, fewer than half actually use it.

What Happens if You Don’t Use Your CPAP

If you have obstructive sleep apnea and don’t use your CPAP or use it less than recommended, you’re not effectively treating your condition. Untreated sleep apnea can have severe health consequences including heart attack, stroke, increased chance of being in an automobile or workplace accident, and even death. You are putting your life at risk and maybe even the lives of others by not following through with your CPAP therapy treatment.

Thankfully, if you can’t stand to wear your CPAP, there’s an alternative.

Oral Appliances for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you’re unable to use CPAP, your doctor may prescribe a sleep apnea dental appliance. This device helps to keep the airway open by moving the jaw slightly forward while you sleep. According to studies, more patients stick with this treatment method than with others.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, dentists who specialize in dental sleep medicine are the only ones who can fit an oral sleep apnea device. To ensure that the jaw joints and facial muscles of patients with OSA function well with the appliance, dentists that treat them should also be trained and experienced in neuromuscular dentistry.

Thankfully, in the Frederick, Maryland area, Dr. Cross has been helping sleep apnea patients find a more effective treatment plan with the use of custom oral appliances. If you have sleep apnea and are interested in learning more about custom dental appliances, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Make sure to follow up with your sleep specialist and dentist to ensure that your sleep apnea is being properly managed. Left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences. But with the help of a trained sleep dentist, you can find the treatment plan that works best for you and get on the path to better sleep.

In the Frederick, Maryland area please contact my office at (301) 662-0300 to schedule your sleep apnea consultation. You deserve a good night’s sleep!


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