Dentists do more than care for our teeth. Occidentally, they treat medical conditions that might seem to be outside of their area of expertise. For example, did you know that dental professionals often treat snoring? The common condition affects about half of all adults, but only rarely does it indicate a serious health concern. So, why does your dentist treat it?
In most cases, she will not treat the snoring directly, due to the fact that it is such a common issue. What she will treat, however, is sleep apnea – a disorder that often involves heavy snoring and can have serious health risks, including death. Other symptoms include irritability, depression, sleeping problems, and breathing cessation episodes.
The good news is that dentists have access to a wide array of oral and dental devices that can be used to treat sleep apnea. Most work by opening up the airways, thereby increasing overall airflow. These products might not look pretty, but they are highly effective. Let us take a moment to discuss the two most popular options.
Mandibular Repositioning Tool
Probably the most popular option for sleep apnea sufferers is the mandibular advancement tool. The appliance looks like a sports mouthguard and works by forcing the lower jaw downward and slightly forward. This helps open up obstructed airways, thereby preventing nocturnal breathing problems. When properly fitted by your dentist, the appliance is extremely effective at treating sleep apnea and alleviating its most common symptom-snoring.
It may look like a sports mouthguard, but a mandibular repositioning tool can easily set you back a thousand bucks or more. We should also mention that dental insurance may only cover a small fraction of the price. Some exceptions may apply. If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), for example, insurance may pay most of the bill.
Tongue Retaining Appliance
As its name signatures, this device keeps or holds the tongue in a forward position during sleep. The medical appliance is actually a suction bulb that looks a lot like a baby's pacifier that protrudes from the patient's parted lips. Although some wearers find it uncomfortable, there is no doubt the tongue retainer is effective. Numerous studies have found that it can reduce the symptoms of OSA by up to 70 percent.
Just like the previous, the retainer is a customized oral appliance. As such, it can be extremely expensive to fit it into the exact dimensions of a patient's mouth. While cost does vary from one dentist to the next, the device will usually cost at least a thousand dollars. Once again, its cost will only be covered by dental insurance if the patient has a diagnosed case of obstructive sleep apnea.
Often used in combination with other treatments for sleep-related breathing issues, such as surgery, weight management, or positive airway pressure, oral appliance therapy is a popular option for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Talk to your dentist for more information about these helpful medical treatments for snoring.