Friday, June 25, 2010

Treating Sleep Apnea from the Dental Chair

A recent article on Dentistry IQ highlights the tie between sleep apnea and dentistry.

The article notes that only ten percent of the 18 million Americans with OSA know they have the condition. This lack of awareness makes the condition difficult to treat. People with sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep.

If they don’t treat sleep apnea, it causes serious health problems. Sleep apnea can lead to depression, memory loss, impaired concentration, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. It can also increase driving and work-related accidents.

The article poses an important question: “how does this relate to dentistry?” While sleep apnea is a medical condition, dentists can screen for and treat it. Most people see their dentist more than their primary doctor, so dentists have regular opportunities to notice signs of sleep apnea.

Signs include enlarged tongue or tonsils, or a medical history of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity, or GERD. Snoring, morning headaches and daytime sleepiness are also signs of this condition.

Dentists are not permitted to diagnose sleep apnea. But they can screen for the condition and direct their patients to a sleep center for diagnosis. Once diagnosed, oral appliance therapy is a safe and effective treatment option.

The standard treatment right now is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). But 25 to 50 percent of patients do not comply with or tolerate it.

Oral appliances reposition the tongue and lower jaw forward during sleep to maintain airflow.

The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) offers courses and study clubs for dentists new to oral appliance therapy. They also host advanced educational opportunities.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.