Can My Dentist Help Diagnose and Treat My Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious breathing condition that can damage overall health. It can lead to heart problems, daytime sleepiness and fatigue, memory problems, sexual dysfunction, and even asthma in children. Sleep apnea most often strikes adults. In fact, studies have shown that up to 18-25 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea. Given all the health risks, it’s important to diagnose and treat sleep apnea as soon as possible. Your dentist can help with this.

The team at Endicott Dental is familiar with the symptoms of sleep apnea and the effects it can have on not only your oral health but your overall health as well. Dr. Endicott has recommended patients for sleep studies to diagnose sleep apnea, and he can do that for you!

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which the person stops breathing properly during the night. These breathing interruptions can happen many times during the night. In the most severe cases, these interruptions can occur more than 100 times a night! 

Often, the patient isn’t aware of these interruptions and doesn’t fully wake up. But they can disrupt a normal, healthy, deep sleep, leading to fatigue the next day. The breathing disruptions also disrupt the flow of oxygen into the body. The reduced oxygen can damage the organs, including the brain and the heart. This can lead to memory problems, confusion, and, eventually heart problems. That’s why it’s so important to diagnose and treat sleep apnea as soon as possible!

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Things about sleep apnea are still being studied, such as the exact cause of some types of sleep apnea. Other types, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), are fairly easy to identify because it involves muscles relaxing in the back of the throat and allowing other soft tissue, such as the tongue, to partially or fully block the airway. Dental appliances may be available to keep the airway open in these cases. 

Doctors and scientists have identified several risk factors for sleep apnea. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Being over 40 years old
  • Larger neck
  • Larger tongue
  • Large tonsils
  • Small lower jaw
  • Nasal or sinus problems

Studies have shown that sleep apnea affects more men than women and affects more post-menopausal women than pre-menopausal women.

Can My Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?

The big question is, how can your dentist help with your sleep apnea? At Endicott Dental, we are familiar with the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, and we know how to guide you toward a proper diagnosis.

Dr. Endicott can spot features that could lead to sleep apnea, such as large tonsils or small jaws. He can also find dental issues that have been linked to sleep apnea. This includes bad breath, snoring, mouth ulcers and periodontal disease. Patients with sleep apnea may also have bruxism (teeth grinding), dry mouth from mouth breathing, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

If these disorders are present, you can expect your dentist to dig a little deeper. Dr. Endicott will likely ask you about your sleep habits, whether you feel fatigued during the day, whether you snore frequently, and whether you have problems with memory. If the signs point toward sleep apnea, Dr. Endicott will recommend you take part in a sleep study. This is the most accurate way to diagnose sleep apnea. There are several sleep clinics that can conduct a sleep study, and most sleep studies are covered by medical insurance.

How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea?

The most common way to treat sleep apnea, especially in severe cases, is with a CPAP machine. This device pumps oxygen at a certain pressure into the nose as the patient sleeps. The pressure keeps the airway open and allows the patient to breathe steadily throughout the night. It also prevents the muscles in the throat from constricting to the point that soft tissue can block it. Your doctor or sleep specialist will prescribe the proper CPAP machine and pressure to manage your sleep apnea. Most patients report an increase in energy and concentration almost right away.

In some cases, dental appliances can treat sleep apnea. These appliances are placed into the mouth like a bite plate and are used to keep the throat open and the tongue in place. They fit like a retainer or sports mouthguard. These are mainly used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. The two main types of oral appliances are mandibular repositioning devices and tongue-retaining devices. 

The mandibular repositioning device moves your lower jaw forward and downward so your airway stays open. The tongue-retaining device keeps your tongue in its proper place so it doesn’t slide backward and block your airway.

Your dentist or sleep specialist will be able to determine whether an oral appliance will work for you or whether a CPAP machine might be the better way to go.

Finding Out More About Sleep Apnea

If you suspect you may suffer from sleep apnea, you should talk with a professional right away. The longer you wait, the more damage your sleep apnea can do to your oral health and your overall health. Talk with your dentist about your symptoms, including your dental issues, such as TMJ or bruxism. 

Endicott Dental is happy to recommend the best course of action if we suspect you have sleep apnea. Your overall health is just as important to us as your oral health. Patients in the Broken Arrow, OK, area can schedule an appointment to learn more about sleep apnea and what Endicott Dental can do to help you.

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