Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing rapidly stops and starts. This is caused due to the obstruction of your respiratory passage. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea, and thousands of people are diagnosed with this every year. People who have sleep apnea have poor quality sleep and are always fatigued and restless. Sleep apnea is also a marker of the risk of development of metabolic syndrome and other comorbidities.
You may have heard of sleep clinics, and doctors can provide you plans and ways to treat sleep apnea. Apart from these health care providing options, a dentist can also be a valuable help in treating obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep apnea is characterized by blockage of your upper respiratory passage. This causes unnecessary stress on your chest muscles to pull more air into your lungs. This leads to your breath becoming shallow and suddenly stopping. When breathing starts again, it is accompanied by a loud snore and gasp.
It leads to decreased oxygen supply to your heart and causes several side effects, including restlessness, obesity, and high blood pressure.
A dentist can help you treat obstructive sleep apnea in the following ways.
Obstructive sleep apnea can be an indicator of poor oral health. This type of condition occurs when the tongue is enlarged, and prominent, throat muscles are flaccid, or the jaw structure is too small. The first sign of sleep apnea described by many dentists is tooth grinding.
A dentist is the first step in diagnosing any sleep disorder. The dentist will check the evidence of tooth grinding by looking at your teeth and detecting worn out teeth surfaces. Another sign that a dentist looks for is gum recession and inflamed gums. A sudden increase in the cavity due to bacterial invasion caused by increased tooth friction is also an indicator of sleep apnea.
Oral appliance therapy is a wonderful scientific evidence-based treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It involves the usage of an oral appliance that is made to custom fit and looks somewhat like a mouthguard. This appliance is worn during sleep, and it acts as an orthodontic retainer.
The principle behind the working of this oral appliance is the forward positioning of the jaw while wearing it. This prevents the airway from collapsing. A right dentist will educate you about the functioning of oral appliance therapy and how it is involved in improving symptoms of sleep apnea.
The crucial role of a dentist in improving sleep apnea is by evaluating if the patient is suitable for oral appliance therapy. Dentists also help and suggest the patients with the best oral appliances available in the market. Furthermore, they educate them about the adverse effects of OAT and proper maintenance techniques.
A dentist works and coordinates the oral application treatment with a sleep medicine physician. These combined efforts help in monitoring progress and understanding the patient's response to an oral appliance. They also formulate a sleep study and plan a prescription plan to alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Thus the dental community plays a very critical role in treating sleep apnea. Regular dental check-ups and counseling with a dentist can do wonders by providing relief to these patients.