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Can a Dentist Treat Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea (or obstructive sleep apnea – OSA) is a condition where a person stops breathing while they are sleeping. It affects nearly 20 million Americans, most of whom are never diagnosed with the condition. The problem is that sleep apnea can lead to a multitude of health conditions, including sudden cardiac arrest.  In fact, sleep apnea is what led to the death of football legend Reggie White.  Following his death, his wife Sara made it her mission to become an educator on the topic of sleep apnea, eventually founding the  Reggie White Sleep Disorders Research and Education Foundation.

Traditionally, sleep apnea was diagnosed through a tests known as a polysomnogram and patients were prescribed a treatment known as CPAP therapy.  A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is a device worn by patients as they sleep and it forces air into their lungs, which reduces the workload for the body and keeps the patient breathing. The challenge is that not everyone is able to wear them for a variety of reasons.

Thankfully, there there is a growing field of dentistry known as Dental Sleep Medicine, where dentists who have been specifically trained in correcting sleep disorders can help sleep apnea patients without the use of a CPAP or surgery.

Most general dentists do not have the training of certification to do this, but those who do are awarded diplomat status by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and often are affiliated with sleep centers.

If you or anyone that you know suffers from sleep apnea and does not wear a CPAP, I encourage you to find a dentist who specializes in dental sleep medicine ASAP. It could be a life changing decision!


August 30, 2011
Comments
  1. fdguide said on December 21, 2011 7:28 am:

    @Kimberly – Many people who snore also suffer from sleep apnea. We recommend that anyone who snores has a sleep study to determine if they do or not (that is the only valid way to know).

    Sorry for the delayed response. Your message went into the spam filter 🙁 Happy Holidays!

  2. Joseph Stan said on January 9, 2012 2:56 pm:

    Many people underestimate how good oral health can affect your overall health. This is one terrific example. It would be wonderful to have more dentists involved in this certification because it is a very useful training.

  3. James Dupont said on March 30, 2012 3:49 pm:

    Sleep apnea is a very serious issue and should be addressed as soon as you realize you suffer from it. Lack of sleep really affects your overall physical and mental health.

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