What is Dental Sleep Medicine

Dental sleep medicine is an area of dental practice that focuses on the use of oral appliance therapy to treat sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Dentists work together with sleep physicians to identify the best treatment for each patient. Treated conditions include snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Dentist, screen patients with questionnaires and physical examination — designed to identify key physical attributes that correlate with SDB (sleep-disordered breathing), including a large tongue or long soft palate. Because sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a medical disease, all diagnoses must legally be done by a physician. With the poper screening by the dentist, the patient can go to a physician armed with information for a proper diagnosis. The gold standard for obstructive sleep apnea is an overnight sleep study that includes a battery of tests. The updated manual for scoring sleep apnea event is a reduction of air flow by 90% for more than 10 seconds.

PAP (positive airway pressure) treatment is considered the most common treat meant.  While PAP therapy is common, there are some that are uncomfortable with wearing a mask to bed. Oral appliance therapy is a noninvasive alternative to PAP therapy. Oral appliances are fabricated by trained dentist in sleep therapy. An oral appliance is a device worn in the mouth only during sleep. They are commonly used to reposition the jaw forward to increase the upper airway.

Dentist’s roles in sleep medicine are becoming increasingly important. While dental sleep medicine is to credit for the vast array of snoring mouthpieces and oral appliances available for the treatment of sleep-breathing disorders, they must still work together along the continuum of patient care. There are sleep studies to diagnose the problems, dentist visits to create and fit these devices, further sleep studies to determine proper adjustments, and follow-up, mostly through the dentist, to ensure the devices are working, to show the patients are using them, and to mitigate side effects.