Sleep Disordered Breathing & How Dentists Can Help
Sleep disordered breathing is a term that refers to any type of breathing disturbance during sleep, which can range from mild snoring to more severe conditions like sleep apnoea. These disturbances can disrupt the normal sleep pattern and lead to a range of symptoms, including daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Sleep disordered breathing can also have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
Dentists can play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disordered breathing. They are trained to identify signs of sleep disordered breathing during routine dental exams and can refer patients to a sleep specialist for further evaluation if necessary.
One way that dentists can help treat sleep disordered breathing is by providing dental appliances. These devices, which are worn in the mouth during sleep, work by holding the lower jaw and tongue in a forward position to help keep the airway open. There are several different types of dental appliances available, including mandibular advancement devices (MAS or MAD), tongue retaining devices (TRDs), positional therapy devices, and hybrid appliances. Dental appliances can be an effective treatment option for sleep disordered breathing, particularly for mild to moderate cases. They are generally well-tolerated by patients and do not have the same level of invasiveness or risk of complications as surgical options.
Another way that dentists can help treat sleep disordered breathing is by providing lifestyle recommendations. For example, they may suggest that patients avoid alcohol and sedative medications, which can relax the muscles of the airway and contribute to sleep disordered breathing. They may also recommend weight loss for patients who are overweight or obese, as excess weight can put pressure on the airway and interfere with breathing during sleep.
In addition to providing treatment and lifestyle recommendations, dentists can also educate patients about sleep disordered breathing and its potential consequences. This may involve discussing the importance of getting enough sleep, the potential health risks of untreated sleep disordered breathing, and the various treatment options available.
A scope of practice that is now being recognized after many years of clinical patient success and continuously increasing validation with scientific research is called Myofunctional Therapy. This therapy is offered by Myofunctional Therapists which is an additional qualification some Dental professionals such as Oral Health Therapists obtain through further studies. Given appropriate screening and diagnosis, sleep disorders like snoring can be managed by this type of therapy.
While dentist professionals can play a valuable role in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disordered breathing, it is important to note that they are not generally the primary care provider for this condition. If a dentist suspects that a patient has sleep disordered breathing, they will typically refer the patient to a sleep specialist for further evaluation and treatment. Sleep specialists, such as sleep doctors are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders and can provide a more comprehensive approach to care.
In conclusion, sleep disordered breathing is a common and potentially serious condition that can disrupt sleep and have negative health consequences. Dental professionals can play a valuable role in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition by providing dental appliances, exercise therapy, lifestyle recommendations, and education to patients.