Dental Sleep Medicine is an area of practice that focuses on the management of sleep-related breathing disorders, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, through the use of oral appliance therapy. Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening medical disorder that causes your body to stop breathing during sleep. The muscles in your throat relax and the tongue may fall back and block the airway as you sleep, reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to all of your organs including your heart and brain. People with sleep apnea may snore loudly and stop breathing for short periods of time. The breathing pauses from sleep cause your body to briefly wake while you remain unaware. This can happen hundreds of times per night, and you may wake up feeling unrefreshed.
In addition to snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea can cause memory loss, morning headaches, irritability, depression, decreased sex drive and impaired concentration. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart attack and sudden death while asleep.
Patients that have sleeping disorders are often older, overweight, and have thick necks, but men and women of any age or body type can have sleep apnea. The sleep disorder progressively worsens with age and weight gain.
The vast majority of sleep-related breathing cases go undiagnosed and untreated. One report found that an estimated 50-70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, including sleep apnea. Excessive daytime sleepiness alone costs the economy $150 billion in lost productivity and workplace accidents, plus another $48 billion in medical expenses related to auto accidents involving drowsy driving. Nearly 1 in 5 car accidents causing serious injury are associated with excessive daytime sleepiness.
The CPAP machine
The standard treatment is the use of a CPAP machine, a device that delivers air to the lungs through continuous positive pressure.
This is done through a mask that is worn over the mouth and/or nose.
However, some people are unable to tolerate a CPAP machine or might prefer to have an easier alternative to the bulky equipment for travel situations. Dentists have pioneered the use of oral appliance therapy for the treatment of sleep apnea and sleep-related breathing disorders. An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep. The device fits like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer and prevents the airway from collapsing by either holding the tongue or supporting the jaw in a forward position. With an oral appliance, dentists can minimize or eliminate the symptoms in mild to moderate cases.
Medicolegally a physician must diagnose sleep disorders. Sleep physicians at accredited sleep centers use an overnight sleep study to detect and diagnose sleep apnea. Dentists with training in oral appliance therapy work closely with sleep physicians in the diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care for sleep-related breathing disorders.
Once a patient is diagnosed with sleep apnea or a sleep-related breathing disorder, Peoria Healthy Smiles can provide treatment if the patient is unable or unwilling to use a CPAP machine. We assist patients in the selection and fitting of an oral appliance and provide long-term follow-up care. Dr. Kleiman, working together with sleep physicians, can help you respond to the health risks and economic impact of untreated sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness. Dr. Kleiman is a Medicare approved provider for sleep apnea appliances.