Dental Tribune USA

Dentists treat patients for sleep disorders

By Dental Tribune
July 13, 2011

NEW YORK, N.Y., USA: Sleep dentistry is changing the way patients with sleep disorders are treated. Traditionally, sleep apnoea has been the exclusive responsibility of MDs, neurologists or pulmonologists, but now dentists are focusing on how patients who snore can improve their quality of sleep.

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), when patients are diagnosed as sleep apnoeic, they are placed on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which involves wearing a mask and breathing tube while sleeping. Until recently, surgery was one of the few alternatives to CPAP.

Dentists have started treating sleep apnoeic patients because they understand how occlusion and the position of the jaw can influence a patient’s airway. Many dentists offer oral sleep apnoea and anti-snoring devices to help patients who do not wish to undergo CPAP treatment or surgery.

“I now always discuss, in my report and with my patients, whether they have loud, steady snoring,” said Dr Lisa Shives, a sleep physician who authored an article about snoring for CNN Health. “If they do, I recommend treatment, usually with an oral appliance, sometimes with CPAP.”

Sleep apnoea awareness has grown steadily. The SLEEP journal noted in 2008 that loud snorers are ten times as likely to have atherosclerosis, which has motivated doctors and dentists to seek treatment methods for apnoea.

“I’m seeing a growing demand in my patient base,” reports Dr Mark Weiser, a Santa Barbara dentist and member of the AACD who treats sleep apnoea and snoring. “But a lot of the appliances I’m making are for CPAP patients that can’t stand their mask and what-not, so they go to Google and look for other options.”

“As a dentist, I feel I have an opportunity to ‘bridge the gap’ so to speak, and help catch more cases of sleep apnoea,” adds Dr Don Lowrance, who practises in Corpus Christi, USA. “They’re in my chair, and it doesn’t take that much time to ask some simple questions that tell whether or not a sleep study is warranted.”

Omaha sleep apnoea dentist Dr Roger Roubal routinely asks his patients whether they snore. “It’s a simple question, but by asking it, we’re potentially saving lives in the dental office.”

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