Dental Sleep Medicine focuses on the management of sleep-related breathing disorders, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea through the use of oral appliance therapy.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening medical disorder that causes your body to stop breathing during sleep. The muscles in your throat relax and the tongue falls back and blocks the passage of air as you sleep, reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to all your organs including your heart and brain. This can happen hundreds of times per night, and you may wake up the next morning feeling exhausted.
In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea can cause memory loss, weight increase, morning headaches, irritability, depression, decreased sex drive, and impaired concentration. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart attack and sudden death while asleep. This sleep disorder progressively worsens with age and weight gain so early treatment is necessary.
The vast majority of sleep related breathing cases go undiagnosed and untreated. An Institute of Medicine report found that an estimated 50-70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. Excessive daytime sleepiness alone costs the economy $150 billion in lost productivity and workplace accidents, another $48 billion in medical expenses relate to auto accidents involving drowsy driving. Nearly 1 in 5 car accidents causing serious injury are associated with excessive daytime sleepiness.
Based on recommendations from the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a physician is responsible for the diagnosis of sleep disorders and for recommending a treatment. A board certified sleep medicine physician at an AASM accredited sleep center uses an overnight sleep study to detect and diagnose sleep apnea. Once a patient is diagnosed with sleep apnea or a sleep related breathing disorder, a dentist trained in sleep disorders may provide treatment. A dentist assists patients in the selection and fitting of an oral appliance and provides long-term follow-up care.
Dentists have pioneered the use of oral appliance therapy for the treatment of sleep apnea and sleep related breathing disorders. An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep. The device fits like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer and prevents the airway from collapsing by holding the tongue or supporting the jaw in a forward position. With an oral appliance, dentists can minimize or eliminate the symptoms or sleep apnea in mild to moderate cases.
In cases of severe sleep apnea, a CPAP (breathing machine) maybe the best course of treatment. Many times though patients cannot get acclimated to this device, then a dentist's appliance may be used to try to aid the patient. Call today if you have a sleep problem or know someone who does. There is nothing better than a good nights sleep.