Sleep apnea is a debilitating sleep disorder in which a person actually stops breathing at
numerous points throughout the night. Usually, a person isn’t aware that they wake up gasping
for breath after these episodes. A spouse or partner is typically the one to alert them of the
Although dentists cannot provide an official diagnosis for sleep apnea, these professionals are
often the first people to come into contact with the disorder and can provide further guidance
and even initiate treatment.
Here’s how your dentist can help with your sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
Since patients usually see their dentist more often than their primary care doctor, your dentist
is often able to recognize the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea before your doctor is able to
make the diagnosis.
These signs and symptoms include enamel erosion as a result of dry mouth from snoring, teeth
grinding (bruxism), and inflamed gum tissue.
Your dentist may ask you questions such as whether or not you wake up with a headache, if you
snore, if you have other health conditions linked with sleep apnea—such as high blood
pressure—or if you feel fatigued throughout the day.
Getting a Diagnosis
If your dentist suspects you may be suffering from sleep apnea, he or she can refer you to a
sleep specialist for an official diagnosis.
Although dentists are trained to recognize and treat sleep apnea, a confirmed diagnosis from a
sleep specialist is required before treatment can be done. This is to ensure you’re getting the
correct diagnosis and treatment plan that you need to get better.
Your sleep specialist will likely recommend you have an overnight sleep study done to
determine if you have sleep apnea. Once a diagnosis is made, you can talk about your options
and come up with the right course of treatment for you.
Although continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines have long been the traditional
form of treatment for sleep apnea, many patients are unable to comply with this form of
treatment due to discomfort or inconvenience.
This is where your dentist comes in. Your dentist can help treat your sleep apnea through oral
sleep appliances, which aren’t much different from a retainer but will slightly shift your jaw
forward in order to keep your airway open while sleeping, therefore eliminating your cessation
of breathing during sleep and reducing your sleep apnea symptoms.
People who receive oral sleep appliance therapy from their dentist are often more able to
comply with their treatment and see their sleep apnea symptoms disappear once they begin
getting a good night’s sleep again.
Since sleep apnea can affect your entire life, from your daily performance to your risk for
chronic diseases, getting an official diagnosis is essential to receiving the right treatment that
can help restore your quality of life. Your dentist is an integral part of this process, so visit your
dentist today if you suspect you suffer from sleep apnea!