Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep? Do you wake up in the night gasping for air? You may have a sleep disorder. Dentists are increasingly helping patients identify and address sleep problems related to apnea and snoring. As practitioners who get to know your mouth and throat up close, your dentist is often an excellent first resource for sleep disorders. And a sleep study is usually the best place to start.
How Can My Dentist Help With Sleep Disorders?
Dentistry isn’t just about your teeth but about your oral and overall health. Sleep dentistry is a growing field as the medical community learns more about how your jaw and bite play a role in conditions like sleep apnea. One of the most common sleep disorders, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, happens when tissue in the back of your throat blocks the airways. Dentists have the skills and training to identify upper airway problems and diagnose sleep apnea, snoring, and other disorders. Some of the tools used to diagnose OSA include:
- Mouth and neck x-rays to detect excess tissue in the throat.
- Rhinometer: noninvasive device that sends sound waves up the nasal passageway to identify the location and severity of obstructions in the airway.
- Pharyngometer: a minimally invasive device that allows us to measure the patient’s pharyngeal (throat) airway size and stability in less than ten minutes.
- A home sleep study: a convenient take-home device patients wear overnight and return to the office the following day.
How Can A Mouth Guard Help With Sleep Apnea?
The traditional treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine that delivers pressurized air through a mask to keep the airway open. However, a CPAP can be cumbersome and hard to use, which may deter patients from using it. Research has shown promising results from special mouthguards called Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD). These custom-made mouthguards fit both the upper and lower teeth. They’re designed to bring the lower jaw forward, which helps keep the airway open. Research shows that MADs are as effective or more effective than CPAPs because they make it easier for patients to follow through with treatment.
Why Is It So Important to Identify and Treat Sleep Disorders?
Aside from the fact that not breathing is a big health hazard, everyone needs sleep to stay healthy. Sleep disorders can disrupt patients’ lives. Nighttime sleep problems can lead to daytime exhaustion and interrupt a patient’s ability to function. Recent studies show that getting less sleep can put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, heart problems, and stroke.
Am I A Candidate for a Sleep Study?
If you experience any of the following, it may be time to look into a sleep study:
- Insomnia or routinely waking up in the middle of the night
- Loud snoring
- Gasping for air in the night
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Consistently feeling tired during the day because of interrupted sleep
- Losing the ability to function because of exhaustion
If you have questions about sleep disorders and sleep studies, your family dentist is an excellent place to start. Dr. Robert Hall of Hall Family Dentistry has extensive experience in the field of sleep dentistry. Dr. Hall can prescribe initial tests and work with your doctor to review results and treatment plans. Our office can also help with referrals to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist if your needs are beyond their scope of services. And the good news is that most health insurance covers sleep disorder dentistry as a medical expense, so you’re covered even without dental insurance. Talk with our office if sleep problems are interfering with your health. It’s the first step toward better health and peace of mind.