Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder characterized by snoring and the repeated stopping and restarting of your breathing. The most common form is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when your throat muscles relax and prevent the oxygen from reaching your brain. This state forces all your organs to work harder to pump the oxygen through your system. The condition leaves you with fatigue and headaches in the morning and can profoundly impact your organs. For patients who suspect they have sleep apnea, our Scarborough dental office can help you to get a diagnosis.
The Dental Connection
Snoring and breathing during sleep might not appear to have an obvious dental connection, but there are several links between your OSA and dental care. Snorers typically sleep with their mouths open, which causes mouth and throat dryness. Bacteria thrive in a dry mouth, and the absence of enough saliva to clean the surface of the teeth gives them a perfect opportunity to cause tooth decay.
Dental signs of sleep apnea also include teeth grinding, which contributes to a higher risk of cracked or chipped tooth enamel. Grinding, known as bruxism in dentistry, can also lead to worn-down teeth, headaches and jaw pain. It’s not solely about the dental connection, however. Sleep apnea is also linked to an increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Getting Diagnosed with Sleep Apnea
If you’re waking up in the morning with one or more of the symptoms listed above, discuss the possibility of sleep apnea with your dentist. Patients can ask their family doctor to order a sleep test and deliver an official diagnosis. The sleep study usually occurs at an Ontario sleep clinic and is normally covered by your OHIP insurance. You’ll be required to spend the night there while medical technicians and a doctor monitor your sleep patterns through the use of electrodes connected to your head. It’s a simple, painless test, and you’ll know soon afterwards what your diagnosis is. You can share the diagnosis with your dentist.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
It’s vital for people diagnosed with sleep apnea to get treatment for the condition. Losing weight can help, but obesity isn’t the only cause of apnea. Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, the sleep clinic doctor might recommend you start using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to push oxygen into your lungs during sleep. Potential treatments also include automatic machines (APAP) and bilevel machines (BiPAP), which work on the same principle.
The Benefits of a Dental Appliance
If you have mild to moderate sleep apnea, Scarborough patients may be good candidates for treatment with a mandibular advancement device (MAD), which is a dental appliance like a mouth guard. A consultation with our dentists will determine whether a custom mouth guard worn during the night will help keep your jaw in a forward position, preventing the muscles from blocking your airway.
This type of appliance is also invaluable for preventing teeth grinding during sleep, whether it is a symptom of sleep apnea or has another cause. In some instances, patients use PAP equipment in combination with the anti-snoring mouthpiece to treat their sleep apnea effectively.
Costs, Benefits and Disadvantages of Dental Treatment for Sleep Apnea
A sleep apnea dental appliance cost ranges between $1,500 and $2,000 which includes the dental consultation fee and the laboratory’s manufacturing cost.
For mild and moderate sleep apnea, quite often the MAD or oral appliance enables you to avoid needing treatment with a PAP machine altogether. For patients with severe apnea, combination therapy using both a device and a PAP machine can deliver benefits.
When you’re considering the pros and cons of an oral appliance for sleep apnea, the benefits far outnumber the disadvantages. Not only is a mandibular advancement device much less cumbersome for daily use, it’s also more portable for travelling than any of the PAP machines. In addition, many people simply don’t want to use a CPAP, which makes them good candidates for the MAD.
For more information on custom mouth guards for sleep apnea, Scarborough patients should schedule a consultation with our experienced, compassionate dental team. Please call 416-291-3117 or click here to make an appointment today.