- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep-related breathing disorder that can cause you to stop breathing during the night.
- Dentists play an important role in identifying patients who should be assessed for OSA.
- Your physician may refer you to a dentist for an oral appliance that prevents your tongue from blocking your airway.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep-related breathing disorder that can cause you to stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times each night. The most common symptom is snoring (although snoring is not necessarily a sign of OSA).
Here are some other signs of sleep apnea:
- high blood pressure
- gasping or choking during sleep
- problems concentrating
- morning headaches
- memory problems/memory loss
The most effective treatment for mild or moderate sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). With CPAP you wear a special mask attached to a CPAP machine. A steady stream of air is blown through the mask, into your nose and down your throat. The pressure helps keep your airways open so you can breathe properly all night.
How your dentist can help
While your dentist can’t diagnose sleep apnea, they can tell if you’re at a greater chance of developing it. Because the jaws and related structures may influence OSA, dentists play an important role in identifying patients who should be assessed. They’ll refer you to a physician for a follow-up assessment.
Your physician may also recommend that you use a dental (or an oral) appliance that fits over your teeth and prevents your tongue and jaw from blocking your airway. In comparison to CPAP devices, these appliances are sometimes regarded as a convenient, silent and more bed partner-friendly choice. These should only be prescribed by your physician, who may refer you directly to your dentist.
Learn more about sleep apnea
Do you suffer from daytime sleepiness?