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How Can a Dentist Help with Sleep Apnea?

Reducing sleep apnea (snoring is one of the number one signs of this problem, see this article from our blog) can improve quality of life, health outcomes, and even prevent automobile accidents – but how can a dentist help with a sleep problem?

Your dentist may know you better than your doctor – a dentist usually sees you more often and for longer.

Apnea starts not as a sleep problem, but as a breathing problem – and it’s not much of a stretch for a dentist to take a closer look at what is happening in your mouth, throat and nasal passages through which you breathe.

According to

A Dentist May be on the Front Line to Catch Sleep Apnea

“Dentists are well poised to make a significant impact on this health issue by increasing awareness of breathing disorders among their patients.”
It’s not hard for dentist to learn screening questions about sleep apnea. So not only can a dentist educate you, the patient, but based on what they see, and a few educated questions, they can screen for sleep apnea.
Then dentists and doctors can work together to diagnose and treat sleep apnea.
One of the first things your dentist or doctor can do, if they suspect sleep apnea, is send you for a sleep test.

A Dentist is in the Right Position to Screen you and Arrange for a Sleep Test

Depending on the situation you may get sent to a special sleep testing lab for a test called a polysomnogram (PSG) – a test to find out what is happening while you are sleeping. Or, you might be given a sleep testing kit, told how to use it, and sent home to do it yourself. 

The advantage of the test in the lab, is that it is a much more thorough test – it can diagnose a whole range of sleep problems, not just sleep apnea.

What is a test in a sleep lab like?

You go to a sleep lab, in a room like a hotel room, but you are attached to all kinds of monitors by an attendant, and if any of the equipment slips or falls off or gets detached, there is an attendant there to put it back correctly. The monitoring begins exactly when you fall asleep, again, because there is an expert there to see when you do, while at home it starts when you put on the equipment so it might under-diagnose your apnea, since you usually don’t snore while you’re still falling asleep, and if the equipment somehow gets dislodged during the night, you have to start over.

How is a home sleep test different? 

That said, the home sleep monitor diagnoses sleep apnea quite well. Your doctor or dentist shows you how to use it, and while it takes about 10 minutes to put all the equipment on, it is much more comfortable and convenient to stay at home in your own bed. Finally, in the US, the home sleep test on average costs about one quarter as much the lab test, according to Alaska Sleep Clinic’s  blog.

What if I have sleep apnea?

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea your doctor may prescribe a sleep mask, called a continuous positive airway pressure device – CPAP – and it may save your life by allowing your brain to get the oxygen it needs – or at least make your quality of life much better, if you can finally rest at night because you are getting enough oxygen.

Or, it could be that you don’t need the whole mask, and a simple mouth guard will be enough to help you breathe at night.

Then a dentist is the best person you can see, because dentists like Dr. Keith Valachi at the Dental Sleep Apnea Clinic, are able to custom design a mouthpiece, called an oral appliance, specifically for you, and adjust it until it fits. Oral appliance therapy works by gently moving your lower jaw forward, which opens up the airway that has been blocked. This CPAP alternative may work well and allow you to breathe and sleep better.

Is your dentist equipped to help you or a family member get snoring treated? Why don’t you ask? – Or call Dr. Keith Valachi, who can help you get relief from snoring and sleep apnea now.

To get Sleep Apnea diagnosed and treated Call Dr. Valachi, at 971-271-7478.

Stop Snoring, Sleep Better, and Live Longer!

The Dental Sleep Apnea Clinic can help you and your partner find relief from sleep apnea. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

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