With the explosive rise of sleep apnea and the overwhelming unpopularity of the CPAP machine that helps those with the condition breathe normally, it is time to turn your attention to the role that dentists have in the control of sleep apnea.
Even the sleep specialists are turning to dentists. As stated in a recent article in Dentistry IQ by Robert S. Rosenberg, a sleep disorder specialist, “The problem we sleep specialists face is that although we have a very effective treatment — CPAP — only about 65% of our patients can tolerate it when followed over the course of a year. As a result, oral appliances have become the best alternative available.”
You may not know you have sleep apnea since snoring is such a common problem and doesn’t always arouse suspicion that something else may be wrong. However, sleep apnea is a major cause of heart attack, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes. And according to several recent studies sleep apnea has also been linked to cancer and aging.
Waking up tired after a full night in bed is one indication that restful sleep is not happening. Our culture doesn’t always pay attention to tiredness as a symptom though, so we must start becoming more aware of our resting states.
According to another article from The Academy of General Dentistry, “Dentists are often the first professionals to become aware of a potential problem since they are usually in contact with their patients more frequently than are physicians.” (www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article)
Dentists trained in identifying sleep apnea are alert to complaints about lethargy, headaches in the morning, awakening frequently with a non-cold related sore throat and dry mouth, which occurs as a result of breathing through the mouth.
The unpopularity of the CPAP machine has made it more important for dentists to identify sleep apnea. The oral appliance devices that help to correct the nighttime breathing are similar to athletic mouth guards. These devices reposition the jaw and tongue, improving airflow and overall health.
Very often, people with milder forms of sleep apnea don’t remember waking up throughout the night. Those with more severe cases have episodes of sleeplessness and find it difficult to get a good night’s rest. Many have been diagnosed and prescribed the CPAP machine though they will not use it due to the great discomfort. If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and have given up on the CPAP machine, talk to your dentist. The oral appliance devices, worn only during sleep, are custom fitted to each individual and may require minor tweaking to achieve the perfect fit allowing for restful sleep.
A good night’s sleep is magical, restoring physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. At Northern Dental Care we work closely with patients who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea as well as with their physicians. We make and monitor dental appliances as an alternative to CPAP. We also work closely with our patients to identify sleep apnea and we will suggest a visit to a sleep specialist for diagnosis if necessary. Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you suspect you or someone you love has sleep apnea. Don’t lose another night of magical restorative sleep.