Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition that occurs when breathing is obstructed during sleep. At Healthy Smiles of Saint Louis, to diagnose the condition, a sleep study or polysomnogram is performed for an overnight observation of the patient’s sleep patterns to determine the amount of oxygen being inhaled and exhaled by the body. Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. Many people that have this condition will snore loudly while sleeping, making a loud snorting noise that can wake them up in the middle of the night. Other symptoms include daytime fatigue, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, and depression.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
A dentist can diagnose sleep apnea with a physical exam and simple at-home testing. First, the dentist will ask questions about the patient’s sleep habits to get a feel for how often and well they sleep. The dentist will also examine the mouth to look for signs of teeth grinding or gum recession, which can exacerbate the side effects of sleep apnea. If there is evidence of tooth damage, a dentist may recommend a treatment such as a custom-made oral appliance to reposition the mouth during sleep to reduce strain on the teeth. If a patient is diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a dentist will likely refer them to a sleep specialist. Patients with mild to moderate forms of the condition can benefit from regularly seeing a dentist for checkups, cleanings, and other treatments to improve their sleep quality and oral health.
In addition to diagnosing patients, dentists can help prevent and treat sleep apnea by fitting patients with custom-made oral appliances and offering nonsurgical solutions such as professional cleanings and routine exams.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Many patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea are candidates for an oral appliance or mouthpiece. These appliances are similar to sports mouthguards. They gently move the jaw forward to open the airway so patients can breathe easily during sleep. The devices reduce snoring and relieve the symptoms of sleep apnea. Some patients prefer oral appliances to CPAP machines because they find them more comfortable. Others find that they prevent teeth from grinding while they sleep. Most patients find the devices easy to wear; most only need to wear them at night and can remove them to eat and speak. Patients who have more severe sleep apnea may need surgery to treat the condition. Your dentist will work with you on the best treatment options.
If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, contact Healthy Smiles of Saint Louis at 4224 Watson Rd, St. Louis, MO 63109, or call (314) 832-1366. Our dentist can help determine if you have sleep apnea by examining your oral tissues to check for abnormalities such as enlarged tonsils or tongue and signs of periodontal disease.