When you think of sleep apnea and snoring solutions, you probably don't think about going to your dentist. However, dentists can play a large role in helping with sleep solutions, especially in regards to Oral Appliance Therapy. Over the years, dental technology has improved so much that it has been monumental in coming up with new ways to assist patients with sleep apnea or snoring problems.
What is Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT)?
Oral Appliance Therapy is an instrument that appears similar to a mouthguard that is worn as you sleep. There are two main types of instruments: Mandibular Repositioning Devices or Tongue Retaining Devices. These appliances work by either preventing your tongue from blocking your airway or holding your jaw forward and your airway clear. They are sometimes used as an alternative to a CPAP machine, which can be cumbersome. They are easy to take with you when traveling and many patients are more likely to use them consistently.
What is a Dentist's Role in Oral Appliance Therapy?
Dentists are not the first person that comes to mind when thinking about sleep solutions. However, physicians often collaborate with dentists to assist patients with sleep problems. If your doctor thinks that you could benefit from Oral Appliance Therapy, they will refer you to a dentist.
The first thing the dentist will do is discuss the benefits, the possible side effects and the cost with you. Then they will examine your mouth. They are looking at your teeth, jaw, airway and tongue in order to come up with the best plan of action for you. They will likely make an impression or a model of your mouth. This will then be sent to the lab so that the lab can make the sleep apnea appliance for you.
After the oral appliance is sent to the dentist, they will schedule an appointment for you to return. The dentist will then fit it to your mouth. They adjust it so that it works the way it is supposed to and so it fits you comfortably. They educate you in taking care of your device. You learn how to use it, clean it and maintain it. They might send you back to your physician or to a sleep study to see if it is helping you.
Over time, you will return to the dentist to get it adjusted. It is important to keep up on adjustments so it maintains its effectiveness.