Have you heard of sleep dentistry? No, it’s not having sleep or a nap during your dental visit. Sleep dentistry is a branch of dentistry where dentists help people with sleep problems such as snoring, sleep breathing disorders, sleep apnoea, TMJ dysfunction and teeth clenching and grinding.
Sleep dentistry involves doctors, sleep specialists, and dentists working together to treat the symptoms of sleep apnoea and snoring. It is estimated that about 50 million to 70 million Americans have ongoing sleep disorders, including about 18 million with sleep apnoea with many many more having undiagnosed symptoms.
It is difficult to specify exactly how many Australians suffer from sleep apnoea. It is generally thought however that around 9% of women and 25% of men in Australia have clinically significant episodes of suffocating for breath during their sleep which is what an apnoea is. Despite this, a large proportion of Australians with sleep apnoea remain undiagnosed and untreated.
Sleep apnoea is more common in males than females and becomes more common as we age. Research studies show that sleep apnoea increases the risk of death and poor health being linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and diabetes. Treating sleep apnoea and sleep-disordered breathing eliminates these risks. The financial cost of sleep apnoea (healthcare costs, lost productivity, road accidents and work-related accidents) in Australia is in the range of $2-8 billion per year. Patients with sleep apnoea are 4 to 9 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) happens when tissue in the back of your throat collapses and blocks your airway while you’re sleeping, cutting the amount of oxygen delivered throughout the body.
Essentially suffocating you.
When blood-oxygen levels drop low enough, you momentarily wake up, though sometimes so briefly you don’t even know it. It is these disturbances to sleep called arousals that are the problem more than the lack of oxygen. The number of arousals from sleep is what creates an increased risk for poor health as you do not get enough deep recovery and repair stages of sleep. Snorers may also lose sleep, sometimes because their own loud snore rouses them but mainly due to the lack of airflow into the body.
As a dentist trained in sleep medicine Dr Rachel Hall holistic dentist can help diagnose the signs of sleep disorders by looking in your mouth, obtaining diagnostic scans of your jaws, nose and airway and carrying out a detailed screening questionnaire regarding your health, lifestyle and sleep. If we feel you have indications of a sleep breathing disorder we will recommend a sleep study and visit with a sleep physician to diagnose the condition and its severity.
Working with the sleep physician we can provide you with treatment by making you a custom made oral appliance worn at night that holds the jaw forward, to advance the tongue and increase the airway volume cutting down on snoring and the tissue collapse that causes sleep apnoea. We may also suggest seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist if it is apparent that your nasal breathing is limited.
The common treatment recommendation for sleep apnoea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines, which push air into your body to help ventilate you at night. However many people find dealing with the bulky masks and the force of the air too difficult to cope with and so many people stop using them. Unfortunately and at great risk to their health, many do not seek any other options for their treatment as they are unaware of the services a well-trained sleep dentist like Dr Rachel Hall can offer.
Oral appliances are not an alternative treatment they are in fact an excellent stand-alone treatment for sleep-disordered breathing and a 2013 study confirmed that oral appliances can successfully treat apnoea cases of all levels of severity and is a treatment option that people are more likely to use.
Could you have sleep apnoea? Look out for warning signs:
If you suspect you or your loved ones could be suffering from sleep apnoea or sleep disordered breathing call us to find out how we can help 07 3720 1811.