Sleep disorders don't just affect marriages, they harm the quality of a good night's rest and can cause some serious health risks. Now some dentists are playing a key role in the treatment of certain sleep disorders, including snoring and sleep apnea, according to a recent report in General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education.
"Your dentist should be able to complete an initial consultation to determine the problem, such as how you are feeling upon wakening or if you wake up in the middle of the night," says T. Bob Davis, DMD, FAGD, spokesperson for the Academy. Once the initial consultation is completed, your dentist might consult with a physician or a sleep clinic to determine a diagnosis.
Snoring is caused by vibration at the back of the throat, and dental appliances help to minimize or eliminate the problem. "The diagnosis is key because snoring alone doesn't automatically signify a serious problem. For basic snorers, a "snoreguard" (a plastic bite plate) can provide relief because it repositions the jaw and muscles, tissue and tongue. The apparatus helps breathing become less labored giving a person more room to breath quietly," says Dr. Davis.
For those with sleep apnea, a much more serious condition, Dr. Davis refers patients to a sleep clinic to make the diagnosis. People with sleep apnea cannot get enough oxygen, and breathing actually stops for a short period of time, predisposing them to a collapsed airway and other health problems.
Most dentists can help if you snore or refer you to a physician to determine if there is an underlying medical problem. If you want to try to reduce the symptoms of snoring yourself, Dr. Davis recommends losing weight and reducing alcohol consumption when appropriate.