For most people, the mention of sleep apnea triggers thoughts of sleep center studies, primary care doctors, and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines. However, what many don't realize is that this isn't the only means of identifying or treating sleep apnea. Believe it or not, your dentist might even have something to say about it. Here's a look at a few of the things that you should know about your dentist's potential role in your sleep apnea condition.
Early Symptom Detection
In most cases, people who suffer from sleep apnea actually have no idea that they have the condition. Their spouse or partner would be the one seeing the signs of it more than they would. As a result, they may not mention any concerns to their primary care doctor unless their partner brings it up first. However, since most people visit the dentist twice a year, you'd be surprised to know that your dentist might spot signs of sleep apnea before you'd ever think to mention it to your doctor.
While your dentist can't diagnose sleep apnea like your doctor, they might be the first to see it due to signs like gum inflammation, teeth grinding, and enamel erosion from dry mouth issues. All of these symptoms can indicate that you have sleep apnea, which your dentist can help you address.
CPAP Alternative Treatment
Your dentist won't be able to provide you with any kind of sleep apnea treatment until you've completed the sleep study for formal diagnosis, but once you have that diagnosis, you might find that you prefer your dentist's treatment as an alternative to the traditional CPAP.
While CPAP machines have been the gold standard for treating sleep apnea, they are not the only solution. And, many patients struggle to use the CPAP and sleep comfortably with the device on. That's where your dentist comes in.
Ask your dentist about an oral appliance to treat your sleep apnea. Much like the retainers used after the removal of orthodontics, a sleep apnea oral appliance will fit in your mouth and shift the position of your jaw in such a way that it helps keep your airway open. This reduces sleep apnea symptoms and encourages more restful sleep.
If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, or if your dentist has mentioned symptoms, it's important to seek a diagnosis as soon as possible. In addition, don't hesitate to ask your dentist about treatment alternatives to the CPAP machine.
Contact a sleep disorder dental center, such as TMJ & Sleep Center, for more information on sleep apnea.