Should You Be Tested for Sleep Apnea?

My dentist says I should be tested for sleep apnea. Why is my dentist talking about this?  The question should be, why wouldn’t your dentist be talking about this?

22 million Americans have some type of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), with 80 percent of moderate to severe cases being undiagnosed. Patients usually see their doctor for a well check once a year, but see their dentist for a check at least twice a year.

It is important to screen, diagnose and treat OSA, in both children and adults. Untreated OSA can lead to acid reflux, uncontrolled high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, other cardiovascular problems and increased risk of type II diabetes, depression and accidents caused by drowsiness. In children, it can cause symptoms similar to ADD/ADHAD. Orally, it can lead to damage to and malalignment of teeth.

Dentists use questionnaires that assess a person’s quality of sleep, daytime sleepiness and snoring habits to screen for OSA. He/she determines your risk and need for a sleep study based on neck size, tooth evaluation and airway size.

If you have sleep apnea you may need a CPAP or the dentist can help assess the best treatment to increase your airway. This may include orthodontics or an appliance called a mandibular advancement device (MAD).  Early intervention of sleep apnea can create a better quality of life and your dentist can be part of the team. 

About the author

Stacey Hall, D.D.S