Why is my dentist talking about sleep apnea and saying I should be tested for this condition?
The question should be why wouldn’t your dentist be talking about this? About 22 million Americans have some type of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), with 80 percent of the moderate to severe cases going undiagnosed. Patients usually see their doctor for a well-check once a year, but see their dentist for a checkup two or more times a year.
It is important to screen, diagnose and treat OSA, including in children and adults. Untreated OSA can lead to acid reflux, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, stroke and cause an increased risk of Type II diabetes, depression and accidents caused by drowsiness. In children, it can cause symptoms similar to ADD/ADHD. Orally, it can cause damage and malalignment of teeth.
Your dentist screens for OSA using a questionnaire assessing your quality of sleep, daytime sleepiness and snoring habits, and then determines your risk based on your neck size, tooth evaluation and airway size. Your risk and the need for a sleep study are then determined.
If you have sleep apnea, you may need a CPAP machine or the dentist can help assess the best treatment to increase your airway, which may include orthodontics or an appliance called a mandibular advancement device (MAD). Early intervention of sleep apnea creates a better quality of life.