Dental Help for Your Sleep Apnea

By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert

Dental Help for Your Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s breathing will pause anywhere from seconds to a minute. This can happen even hundreds of times per night. “Apnea” means the absence of breath. Severity levels of apnea are defined, among other variables, by the number of episodes of apnea pauses per hour of sleep. Apnea may, or may not, involve snoring.

Sleep apnea affects adults, as well as children. More occurrences happen in men and people who are 40 to 60 years old, but many women and children are also suffering from sleep disorders like apnea. Other risk factors include race/ethnicity, family history, obesity, and smoking or alcohol use.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pauses or periods of breathing cessation
  • Choking or gasping after pauses
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Attention problems
  • Personality changes/mood swings
  • Sore throat/dry mouth upon waking

Treatment of sleep apnea depends on the severity of the condition. Treatment methods can include:

  • Breathing Devices (CPAP)
  • Dental Sleep Apnea and Snoring Appliances
  • Orthodontic Treatment
  • Surgery

Yes, there are dental devices that help sleep apnea.

Dental appliances may be an option for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP. These oral appliances are useful in correcting mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea and are effective in improving airflow. Custom dental appliances are designed to enlarge the airway and prevent the airway from collapsing. The devices typically cover the upper and lower teeth and reposition the lower jaw in an advanced position. Moving the mandible forward pulls the tongue forward and opens up the airway space.

Dental appliance use for sleep apnea can result in improved sleep patterns and the reduction of snoring frequency and loudness. Research shows high success rates with the use of dental devices relative to sleep apnea.

Prior to selecting any form of treatment, patients should undergo an initial evaluation by a board certified sleep specialist practicing in a center accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.  An overnight sleep study may be recommended, which will determine not only the severity of the problem but will also provide a baseline to measure any future treatment effectiveness. [Treatment measures for sleep apnea should be carefully determined as this sleeping disorder can lead to serious and sometimes debilitating consequences, including heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, congestive heart failure or diabetes. There’s also a greater risk of driving incidents or work-related accidents.]

Are you ready to get sleep apnea under control? Once you have met with your sleep MD and have undergone a sleep study, we can set you up with an appointment to go through our records process with Dr. Elizabeth. During the records process, we will verify the health of your jaw and muscles and determine if a sleep apnea appliance might work for you. If appropriate, Dr. Elizabeth will work closely with your general health practitioner, sleep physician, and lab to design a sleep apnea appliance that is just right for you. Give us a call today.