A dentist is a healthcare professional who is an expert in diagnosing and the prevention of all problems related to the oral cavity. However, the job of a sleep dentist is slightly different. Dental sleep medicine is a branch of dentistry which is concerned with managing different breathing disorders experienced by people in their sleep. Common disorders include sleep apnea and snoring. The dentist uses a variety of different techniques, including surgery of the upper airway and the oral appliance therapy. Compared to ordinary dentists, a sleep dentist does not use conventional methods of treating dental problems. However, they can treat life threatening conditions such as sleep apnea.
What Happens During Sleep Apnea?
People who suffer from sleep apnea often stop breathing while they are asleep. The throat muscles tend to relax, causing the tongue to fall back. This creates a blockage in your airway, making it difficult for you to breath. As the amount of oxygen passing through to your lungs decreases, your brain and heart may begin to fail. Those who suffer from sleep apnea tend to snore very loudly and even stop breathing altogether for a small amount of time.
Most cases of sleep apnea tend to go untreated. However, it is the responsibility of the sleep dentist to not only diagnose sleep apnea, but also administer proper treatment to their patients. They often work with sleep physicians in order to device different treatment methods.
Oral Appliance Therapy
One of the methods used to treat sleep conditions is to administer oral appliance therapy. It is widely used to treat snoring, sleep apnea as well as other breathing disorders. The oral appliance must be worn in the mouth when a patient sleeps. The device is similar to a mouth guard worn by sportsmen. When you sleep, the device prevents the airway from collapsing completely keeping the tongue in place. It also provides support to the jaw, keeping it in an upright position.
The dentist will create an oral appliance after creating a model of your jaw. Once the appliance has been fitted in the mouth, the dentist will keep a check on the patient’s treatment. In case you suffer from sleep apnea or other breathing disorders, you may have to visit the dentist at least once a week.
In some cases, the dentist may have no other option but to recommend upper airway surgery. This is used as a last resort and is only recommended in case other treatment methods do not work. Depending upon the patient’s condition, the surgery may be relatively complex. In some cases, the tonsils may have to be removed completely. The dentist will determine the extent of the surgery required. To find out more about these services, visit Cascades Center for Dental Health.