What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a chronic condition that involves an interruption of breathing during sleep. There are several possible causes for this but the most common in adults is related to the relaxation of the throat muscles. The resulting lapse in breathing can contribute to many medical problems including: poor sleep, drowsiness and lowered levels of oxygen in the blood. As many as 18 million Americans suffer from this condition which is frequently undiagnosed and can have a significant effect on the sufferers’ health.
Why would a Dentist be involved in Sleep Apnea?
Basically for two reasons:
The first is that dentists are in a good position to help screen patients for sleep apnea which can cause dental evidence. Grinding, erosion and tongue scalloping are all things that are obvious to dentists and can suggest a breathing problem. Also, because we see our patients often it is easy to start conversations about other possible symptoms such as snoring, daytime sleepiness and gastric reflux.
The second is that there are dental treatments for sleep apnea. The Gold Standard for treatment has long been Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and this will always be an excellent treatment. Surgery is also a possible treatment. However, in mild or moderate cases of apnea or when the patient cannot tolerate these medical choices, dental options are available. These options mostly involve making an appliance for both jaws that moves the mandible down and forward during sleep.This form of therapy pulls the tongue out of the throat and is called Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT).
Why we want to help you.
Since learning about this serious medical issue that afflicts many of the people in our area we saw an opportunity to help. Treating this problem dentally involved several skills that we already had and some that we needed to learn. Now we can not only fashion the appropriate devices, we can adjust them to get maximum benefit. We can also keep records in a new (for us) medical way that enables us to bill medial insurance and Medicare. Hopefully this will help many of the folks in the North Country receive options that they would otherwise had to live without.
While we are very pleased to offer this new service we fully realize that we are entering into a partnership with our medical colleagues. Our intention is not to sidetrack our patients from pursuing the best possible treatment be it CPAP, Surgery or OAT. We just want to make sure that all the options exist.