Why Dentists Treat Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep condition that can lead to fatal bodily health conditions — so why do dentists often treat it? Well, dentists don’t just treat oral health issues. Your dentist looks at your teeth and mouth every time you visit, so they’re very familiar with these areas.
There’s a lot your dentist can see from a quick examination, such as whether you’re a smoker, which side of your body you sleep on, and whether you might have an eating disorder.
Most people see their dentist more often than any other doctor, so it’s likely they know your health pretty well. That means your dentist can recommend personalized options that suit your lifestyle.
Sleep apnea is one of the conditions your dentist may be able to identify before you or your physician. Not all dentists are trained in recognizing these signs, but a dentist like Dr. Roberta Garceau, who treats sleep apnea in Windsor, CT, can tell during a general exam.
If she notices signs of bruxism (teeth grinding), increased cavities, or other signs, she’ll recommend a sleep study to diagnose sleep apnea. Changes in your oral health can be indicative of a greater health issue.
In the case that you don’t have a regular dentist, looking at the symptoms of sleep apnea and comparing them to your own can serve as a starting point. However, for a second opinion from a professional, seeing a dentist can help you determine if you need additional testing.
The Signs of OSA
Though your dentist may be able to recognize the signs of OSA, it’s important to take note if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Obtrusive or constant snoring
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Pauses in breathing during sleep
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Waking up throughout the night
- Frequent nighttime bathroom trips
These are all common symptoms of sleep apnea. If you experience any of these symptoms, asking your dentist about the possibility of OSA is recommended.
Take-Home Sleep Tests
Many dentists, like Dr. Matthew Huff, offer convenient take-home sleep tests that are available at their offices. If your dentist offers them, they’re much easier to undergo than staying the night at a sleep clinic.
OSA Treatment Options
Recognizing the signs of sleep apnea is one thing, but why should you go to your dentist for treatment? CPAP machines are the most common form of treatment for OSA, and they’re offered through a physician.
Though CPAP machines are an effective treatment for OSA, many people don’t like to use them due to their size and the mask can trigger claustrophobia. Fortunately, there are more options available to treat sleep apnea.
Most dentists who treat sleep apnea, such as Dr. Chiarina Iregui, offer a variety of options so you can choose the one that you’re most inclined towards. Though CPAP and surgery can be obtained by seeing a physician, dentists can provide less invasive and customized treatment options.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliances are mouthguards, similar to sports guards or anti-bruxism mouthguards, but sleep apnea mouthguards are designed to help with snoring and keep your airway open so you can breathe.
There are several types of oral appliances, too. One type moves your lower jaw forward slightly, keeping your airway open so you won’t wake up. Another type holds your tongue in place so it doesn’t slide back into your throat.
You may need to try a couple of different appliances before you find the one that suits you.
In addition to a mouthguard, your dentist will likely talk about ways you can reduce your sleep apnea symptoms through lifestyle changes.
One lifestyle change that can relieve some of the symptoms of OSA is to lose weight. Not everyone who has OSA is overweight, but extra weight increases your chance of developing sleep apnea.
You can also train yourself to sleep on your side rather than on your back. Sleeping on your back often worsens the symptoms of OSA. One at-home tip that can help is to sew a tennis ball onto the back of the shirt you sleep in.
Smoking can be a difficult habit to break, but it can help to greatly reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea. Quitting smoking can revitalize you and help you to sleep well.
Treatment Can Improve Your Life
No matter which manner of treatment you pursue to alleviate your sleep apnea, relieving your symptoms can drastically change your life for the better. With more sleep, you’ll be able to tackle more of the passions of your life without feeling so tired.