Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects over 22 million Americans – and many cases go undiagnosed.
Sleep apnea doesn’t just ruin your sleep by waking you up many times during the night, causing sleepiness during the day; it also hurts your health by leading to high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems that range from chronic heart failure to stroke.
Needless to say, you need to do everything you can to treat your sleep apnea so it does not disrupt your life.
Sleep clinics have a solid track record of helping people with sleep apnea, but the best treatment solution takes advantage of multiple resources. Can a dentist help?
What a Dentist Can Do for Your Sleep Apnea
A dentist is actually a great resource for helping with sleep apnea.
This is because a lot of sleep apnea is caused by your body, specifically your airway. Sleep apnea, after all, is when your body suddenly stops breathing while you’re asleep. An obstructed airway is a big cause of this phenomenon.
One proven solution is to use oral appliances that keep the airway open, and your dentist is the person to see for these appliances. They work best for mild to moderate sleep apnea cases. In severe cases, or in cases with overweight or obese patients whose sleep apnea is directly related to their weight, they may not be the only thing to use.
Oral appliances come in a variety of types; the most common is called a mandibular advancement device, or a sleep device. These mouthguard-like products force the lower jaw to move forward, which allows the muscles that normally collapse during sleep to instead tighten, thereby preventing the airway from closing.
You can also use devices that hold your tongue forward, which helps keep your lower jaw in the right position. These aren’t as common, but they do help and may be recommended by your dentist.
Do Oral Appliances for Sleep Really Work?
They do. Clinical studies as well as patient experiences both attest to how oral appliances can reduce or prevent sleep apnea problems.
They are also more inexpensive than CPAP machines or sleep apnea surgery, and come without complications or side effects. It make take some time to grow accustomed to them, but most patients don’t notice any problems. Plus, you can choose adjustable models that can provide a better fit.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, contact your dentist. He or she will be more than happy to explore whether or not an oral appliance is right for you. Sleep apnea is not something anyone should have to live with, so if you have it, see a sleep disorder specialist and then your dentist for help.