Recently the American Association of Sleep Medicine has recognized dental appliances as a reasonable alternative to the CPAP in cases of mild to moderate sleep apnea. While the CPAP is still the gold standard there are situations where people can’t or won’t wear it. We are able to screen for sleep apnea with a take home monitor and can monitor the oral appliances to ensure that they are working optimally either for snoring or sleep apnea.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. The condition causes repeated breathing interruptions throughout the night; the pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 or more times per hour. These pauses happen because the muscles in the back of the throat are flaccid, the tongue is too large, or the jaw is too small, causing airway obstructions.
The first sign of sleep apnea is often tooth grinding (also called bruxism). Dentists look for worn tooth surfaces, a sign that a patient grinds his or her teeth. Grinding can cause tooth wear and breakage as well as inflamed and receding gums. A spike in cavities can also be a sign of grinding because the force damages teeth, making them susceptible to cavity-causing bacteria.