Dental Health: Why Does Your Dentist Ask About Snoring and Sleep Apnea?

Take care of your body. It’s The Only Place You Have To Live: A Dental Health Series By Dr. Natalie Bailey and Dr. Suzanne Popp from Advanced Dentistry

Welcome to our third dental health article in the series! If you missed that Home care tips from last week or the Mouth-body connection Articles, read here and here!

Does your spouse keep you up at night with their constant snoring? Do you wake up at night gasping for breath? Do you sleep eight hours and still feel sleepy in the morning? Sleep apnea can affect you or loved ones without you even realizing it.

It’s that time again. You will be reminded that your scheduled appointment for your 6-month dental check-up is due. You call to confirm and then you show up with the same old routine. You expect them to ask if anything has changed in your address or medical history, you will chat with the hygienist a little while they brush your teeth, you will see the dentist for a few minutes while they review your x-rays, and then leave with a new toothbrush that you will likely only use when traveling. Like every time you’ve been to the dentist for your entire life.

This time, however, something is different. Your dentist asks … do you snore? What? That’s a strange question. Don’t they all snore? Isn’t that normal? Well, not necessarily.

Sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder that occurs when your regular breathing is interrupted while you sleep. Snoring is common in people with sleep apnea, but not all snorers have sleep apnea.

Sleep breathing are a number of potentially serious conditions that include snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea, and others. The worst part? Many diseases are linked to sleep problems, such as metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory and … dental diseases! If left untreated, sleep-breathing can increase the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression and an risk of colds (hello, COVID?).

Dental Health: Why Does Your Dentist Ask About Snoring And Sleep Apnea?The reason you hear and see so much information about sleep-breathing in dental advertisements these days is because the House of Representatives recently approved a policy statement from the American Dental Association addressing the role of dentistry in sleep-related breathing disorders. The adopted guideline emphasizes that “Dentists are the only healthcare provider with the knowledge and expertise to offer oral device therapy”.

In simpler terms, this means that dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea, but they can and should examine it and help determine the best course of treatment.

If the dentist sees signs of a breathing disorder, they will often recommend a sleep study. These were previously done in a sleep center, but now it is more convenient to do sleep studies in your home. The patient is usually tested for two nights and the results are read by a state-approved sleep specialist. Depending on the results, the dentist will refer the patient to his family doctor or an ENT.

Symptoms of sleep-breathing disorders can include:

  • You don’t feel refreshed when you wake up
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • Experience personality changes
  • a headache
  • heartburn
  • Sweating or chest pain when sleeping
  • depression
  • snoring

Treatment for severe sleep apnea is usually a CPAP machine. However, mild to moderate sleep apnea can be treated with an oral device that a patient wears at night and that is made by a dentist. These devices are comfortable and easy to use and are a great alternative for those who cannot tolerate a CPAP machine. They go in your mouth like a night watchman or retainer, but they hold your lower jaw forward to allow a wider airway and therefore more airflow in and out of your body.

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If you are a candidate for an oral sleep device, the process is pretty simple! You come for a consultation and we will review all current sleep studies. After determining a mild or moderate diagnosis, we will do a five-minute scan of your teeth and bite, send it to the laboratory, receive your appliance in about two weeks, and you’ll see better quality sleep in no time!

In our dental practice, we look at the whole patient, not just the mouth. If you or your partner gasps or snores all night long, it may be time to do a little more research. Would you like to arrange a free sleep consultation with us today? by phone at 619-435-4444.

Dr.  Suzanne Popp and Dr.  Natalie Bailey - Dental Health: Why Does Your Dentist Ask About Snoring And Sleep Apnea?Dr. Suzanne Popp and Dr. Natalie Bailey of Advanced Dentistry, 1010 8th St., Coronado

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