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Can a Dentist Diagnose Sleep Apnea?

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Can a Dentist Diagnose Sleep Apnea?

Getting a good night of sleep is essential to your productivity. Who doesn’t want a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep? Knowing where to go when you’re struggling to sleep is part of the process— your doctor can diagnose sleep issues and help you achieve that great night of sleep.

Sleep apnea is a health condition that can interfere with that ideal night of sleep.

But what is sleep apnea? And can your dental professional diagnose it? Let’s explore.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common condition that occurs when the upper airway becomes repeatedly blocked during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow.

When you can’t breathe properly, your brain signals the rest of your body to wake up and gasp for air. Even if you don’t remember waking up, this constant disturbance can result in sleep deprivation.

While sleep apnea is a common condition, it’s also a very serious condition. Anything involving your breathing is serious and sleep apnea occurring when you’re sleeping is a cause for concern. 

Some signs of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud and/or persistent snoring
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of energy in the morning
  • Irritability 

Catching on to these symptoms and bringing your concerns to your doctor for a sleep study is essential.

Sleep apnea can affect people in any stage of life, so it’s important to identify some risk factors, which include:

  • Excess weight
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Nasal congestion

Lifestyle changes can help combat the severity of your sleep apnea, and consulting your doctor is a great way to find out if a change will help.

Some lifestyle changes you can consider: 

  • Reducing tobacco and alcohol consumption
  • Losing weight
  • Positional therapy

Understanding the different types of sleep apnea can also help you weigh your options.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea—occurs when your throat is blocked while you sleep due to physical obstruction of your airway.
  • Central sleep apnea—is a less common form of sleep apnea that occurs when there’s an issue with your central nervous system. Your brain and body don’t communicate well, making it difficult to breathe, resulting in central sleep apnea.

Your doctor will be able to go into more detail during a sleep study and determine what kind of sleep apnea you’re dealing with. 

A woman asleep in her bed with a CPAP machine around her face.

Can Your Dentist Diagnose Sleep Apnea?

The short answer is yes—your dentist is often the earliest diagnostician of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

However, a sleep study conducted by a medical doctor is a requirement to diagnose sleep apnea officially. It’s important to know the qualifications of your medical professional.

Sleep apnea may start with snoring and sleep disturbances, and your oral health may be the culprit. Dentists are a part of the collaborative evaluation of sleep apnea, utilizing oral appliances to combat sleep apnea.

Let’s explore some treatment options for sleep apnea.

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machines

A CPAP machine is the most commonly prescribed device for sleep apnea disorders. The CPAP machine sends a concentrated, steady flow of oxygen into your nose and mouth as you sleep. This airflow allows your airways to remain open and helps you breathe normally. 

Some benefits of using a CPAP machine include: 

  • Improving your ability to sleep without interruptions
  • Helping to lower blood pressure
  • Reducing daytime sleepiness
  • Lowering your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular events

However, there are some drawbacks when first starting out with the machine:

  • Discomfort and difficulty falling asleep when first using the machine
  • A feeling of claustrophobia or anxiety
  • Nasal congestion
  • Dry mouth

CPAP machines are an excellent treatment option but can be difficult for some people to sleep with. 

Oral Appliance

An oral appliance used for sleep apnea is a mouthguard designed to help keep your airways open as you sleep. 

Your doctor will customize your oral appliance to fit your mouth perfectly and be comfortable to wear. The portable nature of the oral appliance makes transportation simple allowing you to sleep in any position you like.

Your doctor will help fit you with an oral appliance and provide a safe and efficient alternative to a CPAP machine. 

Living With Sleep Apnea

Dealing with sleep apnea can be difficult—a great night of sleep sets the tone for the rest of the day, and diagnosing and treating it as soon as possible is essential. 

Your dentist can help diagnose all the signs of sleep apnea. However, a medical doctor handles the official diagnosis. Book an appointment with our Calgary sleep apnea clinic today to diagnose and treat your sleep apnea and get back to your ideal night of sleep.

Dr. Saleema Adatia

Written by Dr. Saleema Adatia

Dr Adatia did her dental training at Tufts University in Boston MA and graduated in 2006.  Returning to her hometown of Calgary, Dr. Adatia worked as an associate for many years before starting Symmetry Dental.  

Dr. Adatia has focused her clinical practice to the dental management of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. She has completed extensive training in dental sleep therapy, including a residency at her alma mater, Tufts University, and multiple courses focused on evidence-based education and the medical aspects of sleep related breathing disorders.

Dr. Adatia is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, which focuses on training dentists on how to provide oral appliance therapy for people who suffer from sleep apnea.  She has also been involved in clinical trials investigating the effectiveness of novel technologies for the treatment of OSA.

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