Dentists are sleep breathing disorder specialists

Sleep apnea, the frequent cessation of breathing during sleep or abrupt loud snoring which causes the sleeper to wake and take a breath, are now treated quite successfully by the dentist, in conjunction with a physician.

by Dr. Nicholas J. Meyer — 

Dentistry has begun to take on newer roles as technology and awareness of the human condition have exploded. For example, in the area of sleep breathing disorders, dentists have moved into a primary role for treatment, while just a few short years ago they would never have dared tread in that area.

Sleep apnea, the frequent cessation of breathing during sleep or abrupt loud snoring which causes the sleeper to wake and take a breath, are now treated quite successfully by the dentist, in conjunction with a physician.

Using state-of-the-art diagnostics, the dentist can accurately determine the location of the lower jaw, relative to the upper jaw, that will allow maximal airway opening, thus providing a sleeper and his partner a much more restful night. This simple system is certainly preferable to the noisy, claustrophobic CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices currently used to treat these sleep breathing disorders.

Another system is a compact home-monitoring unit that is used to evaluate one’s sleep quality. This unit alone can shave almost $3,000 off the assessment, compared to an overnight sleep study in a sleep lab. A rhinometer and pharyngometer evaluate your nasal and throat airways, allowing the location of the obstructions to be located. Most apnea conditions are in the throat. Armed with this information, we can capture a jaw position that will offer the optimal positioning for the construction of a nighttime sleep appliance.

The appliance is fitted to the mouth, upper jaw, lower jaw or both, and is designed to physically hold the jaw in the most optimal position for the patient. After wearing the appliance for a break-in period of time (usually about two weeks), the patient is then reevaluated for the quality of his or her sleep. The appliance is adjustable for the patient’s comfort. For many people this appliance therapy is a successful alternative to CPAP.

 

Nicholas Meyer, D.D.S., is a general dentist in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has a special interest in the functional aspects of the oral cavity that contribute to such maladies as TMJ, snoring and sleep apnea. He also studies the ways materials commonly used in dentistry affect the body. 480-948-0560 or www.milldental.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 4, August/September 2006.

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