Ask your dentist how oral appliance therapy can help sleep apnea
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that more than 18 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (where the airway in the back of the throat becomes obstructed during sleep), and two-thirds of partnered adults say their partner snores. Sleep apnea can result in fatigue, loss of concentration, high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems.
One way this condition can be treated is by using oral appliance therapy, in which a mouthpiece is custom created for each patient to gently hold the jaw in a forward position to help widen the airspace and keep it open during sleep. These oral appliances also help prevent the tongue from falling back in the throat during sleep.
The first step is for a prospective patient to be evaluated by their primary care physician, and then possibly a medical sleep specialist to determine the presence or absence of sleep apnea. The patient is then referred to a dentist for a simple screening appointment to determine if there are enough healthy solid teeth to accommodate an oral appliance.
Measurements are then made of the jaw opening and the condition of the jaw joints and muscles is checked. The best candidates are patients with simple snoring or mild to moderate sleep apnea. Patients with moderately severe to severe apnea can also be treated if they are unable to tolerate other treatments such as CPAP (breathing mask connected to an air compressor).
Impressions and measurements are made of the teeth, and a custom made FDA approved device is ready in a few weeks. Once a patient has had time to get used to wearing the device and all necessary adjustments have been made, they are referred back to their primary care physician, or sleep specialist for possible follow up testing to verify the effectiveness of the device.
Oral appliance therapy for snoring and sleep apnea is non-invasive, well tolerated and recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
Robert A. Levy, DMD has been practicing general dentistry for over 25 years and is a credentialed member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. He is a graduate of Washington University School of Dental Medicine and completed a general practice dental residency at Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine.
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