Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour.
What can a Dentist do for Sleep Apnea?
My role in the treatment of Sleep Apnea is to fabricate an oral appliance that opens an obstructed airway. This is usually done in conjunction with a Physician trained in Sleep Medicine.
Just what is Sleep Apnea?
In its’ simplest definition, it is disturbed breathing during sleep. The most common disturbed sleep breathing pattern is snoring. An actual, sleep apnea means the cessation of breathing for a period of 10 seconds or longer and the most common cause of apnea is an obstruction airway.
So if I snore, I have sleep apnea?
Not necessarily. Here are some signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:
Snoring intermittent with pauses
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Awakening with gasping or choking
Fragmented, non-refreshing, light sleep
Acid reflux (GERD)
So what consequences are there to sleep apnea?
The most obvious one is that you don’t get a good nights rest and you are subject to daytime sleepiness. It deprives the body of the Oxygen it needs for normal function and repair. Some risk factors for Sleep Apnea are:
High blood pressure
Shortness of breath
Do you treat Sleep Apnea?
Yes and no. I am an adjunct to a Physician in the treatment of Sleep Apnea. A specially trained Physician in Sleep Medicine will do a sleep study to determine if you have a Sleep Disorder, what kind of Disorder, and the best treatment for it. For Obstructive Sleep Apnea (the most common disorder) the Gold Standard of treatment is C-PAP. The CPAP device is uncomfortable, noisy, cumbersome and difficult to travel with. Many patients simply do not utilize it. This is where I come into the picture. For mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea an oral appliance can open up the airway sufficiently to alleviate the problem. In the past, oral appliance have had problems. A new generation of Dental appliances have been extremely successful with patients unable to utilize the C-PAP.
Is the oral appliance comfortable?
For most people it is not more uncomfortable than wearing an orthodontic retainer and considerably more pleasant than the C-PAP.
Is it covered by Dental or Medical insurance?
Our office will assist you in filing all necessary paperwork with your insurance company, as well as help you in maximizing your benefits. Most of our patients are getting reimbursement similar to a C-PAP machine.
What is the protocol in your office for a sleep apnea appliance?
We work with your Sleep Medicine Doctor or we can recommend a Physician for you. You will need a sleep study to verify that you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea. We will do an oral evaluation to determine what kind of appliance will work best for you. Impressions are taken of the teeth and there is a period of about three weeks before the appliance is ready. There is a delivery appointment for the appliance and follow-up visits to adjust the appliance to maximum effectiveness and comfort.