Dental Sleep Medicine

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Having trouble breathing while you sleep ? Spouse is exasperated with your snoring ? Who do you consult ? Physicians right ! Surely, not your dentist ?Sounds bizarre, right ?

Well, in the western world dentists and physicians have been working in perfect tune with each other since the 1980s. Dentists, given their chair side position are usually the first to identify various risk factors including snoring, Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), bruxism or clenching of teeth.Before dentists came into play in this field, more traditional means of treatment were used. These means are still considered the gold standard, but patient comfort and compliance is extremely low.

Hence, the dentist-pioneered Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) has taken the market by storm. An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep. It fits like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. A custom-fit oral sleep appliance is an effective treatment that prevents the airway from collapsing by supporting the jaw in a forward position. What they learned from employing these therapies prodded them towards more intricate tactics for altering the “movable parts” of the upper airway—namely the jaw and the tongue—to create more unobstructed space for breathing and, consequently, far less tissue blocking the space that could vibrate or collapse, leading to snoring, apneas, or both. By simply relocating the lower jaw forward by few millimeters, or tugging the tip of the tongue forward, they discovered more room to breathe in the back of the mouth as well as improved tissue patency, or firmness, resulting in fewer instances of tissue collapse.

The intent of the new dental sleep medicine model is to unify board-certified dentists trained in sleep medicine with physicians in a cooperative system that is based on patient-centered care. While there is no denying the immense contribution of dentists, they must still work together along the continuum of patient care. There are sleep studies to diagnose the problems, dentist visits to create and fit these devices, further sleep studies to determine proper adjustments, and follow-up, mostly through the dentist, to ensure the devices are working and the patients are using them, and to alleviate side effects.Simply put, the next time you see your dentist, they might ask you if you snore or inquire into symptoms that suggest sleep apnea. They may possibly examine your x-rays and consider with a new eye for indications of sleep-breathing complications.

An increasing number of dentists are adding a dental sleep medicine component to their practices. Some have even devoted their entire practice to it.In just four years, the volume of Oral Appliances will likely double. Hence, the market will have the capacity to swallow more and more sleep trained dentists.So the next time you find anyone suffering with Sleep Apnea or any sleep related problems for that matter, suggest them to pay a visit to their dentist, they’ll get the job done !!


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