What is Dental Sleep Medicine?
Dental sleep medicine is a unique area of dental practice that focuses on the use of an oral appliance to treat sleep disordered breathing (SDB), including snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). A custom oral appliance to adjust the positioning of the tongue and/or jaw will be made by a qualified sleep dentist. The oral appliance is worn while the patient sleeps, protruding the lower jaw in an effort to open the airway to lessen airway obstruction while you sleep.
Are all Dentists Qualified to Treat Sleep Disordered Breathing?
No. Dentists are not specifically trained in dental sleep medicine and they need further training and education after graduation. It’s important when choosing a sleep dentist to be sure they have training and are members of various organizations dedicated to the advancement of education in dental sleep medicine. AADSM, ACSDD are the two leading organizations for dentists interested in dental sleep medicine. They maintain a member list of specially qualified dentists that are board certified in dental sleep medicines.
Why Should I be Tested For OSA?
If you are frequently tired during the day or often wake feeling unrested, a sleep test may be necessary to determine your risk of OSA. By administering an overnight sleep test, doctors (MDs) are able to determine if snoring or sleep apnea is disturbing your sleep at night. In addition, they can also determine the severity level and suggest a course of treatment to correct your nightly breathing disturbances. Both Sleep Apnea and snoring should be treated as soon as possible. Since snoring is often a precursor to sleep apnea, it’s important to address it early on, before it progresses to OSA and causes irreversible damage. Chronic OSA is associated with a multitude of medical comorbidities, such as HBP, heart disease, afib, stroke, diabetes and TMD, just to list a few. While CPAP therapy is the gold standard for treating moderate to severe sleep apnea, a large number of patients find the equipment cumbersome and disturbing due to the noise of the machine. Your doctor will prescribe the appropriate course of treatment depending on how severe your OSA is. A custom oral appliance (MAD) is often a good alternative to CPAP to reduce the apnea events.
The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation and Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea left untreated can have devastating effects on the body. Besides its secondary effects from sleep deprivation, that can wreak havoc on our bodies, the stress it puts on the heart and cardiovascular system can be fatal. Paying attention to the warning signs and taking a sleep test early on, are the first steps to getting the proper treatment. Since sleep deprivation can occur slowly, over longer periods of time it may be harder to detect. After getting a full night of restful sleep is when you notice the remarkable improvement in how you feel overall.