Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, have become a significant health issue in recent years. It is now estimated that 26 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 70 years have sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea going undiagnosed.

While it may seem harmless, sleep apnea has numerous health consequences, ranging from fragmented sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness to chronic hypertension, heart failure, neurocognitive dysfunction and stroke. It is important to diagnose and treat sleep apnea to avoid these damaging side effects and your dentist can help.

Most people do not consider their dentist when they are having airway issues such as snoring and sleep apnea, but your dentist is trained to help assess these concerns and can often find important clues such as risk factors and predisposing symptoms that other health professionals may not recognize.

When completing your regular oral examination and discussing your health history, your dentist can screen for sleep apnea-related risk factors or common presenting features, such as:

  • Large tongue or tonsils
  • Irregular jaw development
  • Large neck circumference
  • Nighttime choking or gasping
  • Obesity
  • Loud or irregular snoring
  • Breathing pauses during sleep

Patients with these symptoms or features may be referred to a primary care physician or sleep medicine specialist for further evaluation. If it is determined that you have sleep apnea, your dentist is also likely to play a role in your treatment.

Oral appliance therapy (including dental splints) is commonly recommended for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea, or people with severe apnea who cannot tolerate the use of a CPAP machine. Your dentist can recommend the best appliance for your individual needs and will work collaboratively with your primary care physician and sleep specialist, as part of a multidisciplinary care team, to provide you with optimal long-term care to treat sleep apnea, including periodic dental and periodontal assessment, as well as fabrication and maintenance of properly fitted oral appliances that can be used safely over time.

If you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, or suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, book an appointment today for an assessment with your Ambiance dentist.

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