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Why It's Wise To Visit a Sleep Apnea Dentist

For those who are tired of constantly feeling fatigued because of poor sleep due to sleep apnea, a sleep apnea dentist may be one of your best hopes for finding ways to get the great night’s sleep you so desperately need, and trust us, it will definitely make your partner sleep better and be happier as well. 

The types of treatments available at a sleep apnea dentist are perfect for those who are either not a suitable candidate for CPAP therapy, or are just sick of using a bulky, uncomfortable CPAP mask and machine.

A sleep apnea dentist is a fully licensed dentist who also has a separate license in dental sleep medicine, specifically how to treat sleep apnea through the use of either oral appliance therapy or in some cases surgery on the upper respiratory tract. 

If you are looking for a dentist in your area that is certified in dental sleep medicine, we recommend that you always ask whether or not the dentist is accredited by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). You should always choose an AADSM accredited dentist if at all possible, although there are currently only 15 or so such dental offices in the U.S.

The AADSM was only formed in 2004, which is one of the reasons that their membership is still quite low, along with their strict accreditation policy, although the number of accredited members is growing rapidly.

Use of Oral Appliance Therapy in Sleep Apnea Dentistry

sleep apnea dentistOne of the most used tools in the sleep apnea dentistry repertoire is oral appliances, otherwise known as sleep apnea mouthpieces, mouth guards, or retainers. These types of devices are used to help realign the jaw and straighten and realign the teeth. 

By doing this, the dentist is often able to reduce or even eliminate the symptoms of sleep apnea, as well as other disorders such as TMJ. In fact, these two often go hand in hand, as improper tooth and jaw alignment can be one of the major contributing factors for both of these disorders. 

Generally speaking, there are two different types of oral appliances used to treat sleep apnea. The first type is what is known as a mandibular advancement device. This type of dental sleep device is very similar in appearance to a simple sports mouth guard, and is used to gently move the lower jaw forward and keep it slightly open. 

This then allows the airway to remain open and rids the wearer of some of the airway obstruction that was contributing to their apneas. This type of device is mostly used by those whose airway is obstructed due to soft palate tissue or the uvula. 

For people whose airway is typically obstructed by their tongue (often those with a larger than average tongue), most sleep apnea dentists recommend the use of a different dental sleep device known as a tongue retraining device. This type of oral appliance is actually a type of splint which basically holds the tongue in place to keep it from falling back and blocking the airway. 

Disadvantages of Dental Sleep Devices

sleep apnea dentistOne of the major problems that many people have with both types of oral sleep devices is that they can be somewhat uncomfortable and must be worn every night for the rest of your life. 

Still, when compared to using a CPAP machine, most patients prefer the oral appliance as it is much easier to get used to sleeping with it than with a noisy CPAP machine. In general, if you suffer from sleep apnea, you will need to get used to sleeping with some type of device, and many find the oral appliances to be the much better option.


Another problem associated with dental sleep devices is that they simply do not work as well as CPAP for treating sleep apnea sufferers. This is why they are never recommended for those with severe sleep apnea, as it can be dangerous for these people to ever sleep without the use of CPAP. In fact, the AADSM recommends the use of oral sleep devices especially for those with only mild to moderate forms of the disorder. 


One of the other major issues associated with dental sleep devices is that, while being very effective for stomach or back sleepers, they have very little effect on patients who sleep on their sides. The final common complaint about these dental devices is that they tend to be quite expensive because they must be custom fitted and continually readjusted, however they are very much recommended over the dental devices available over the counter. 

Still, despite these few negatives, dental sleep devices have many fewer risks associated with them and are proven to be a better long term solution that many other options, including surgeries such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP; the main surgery used to treat sleep apnea). 

Using Surgery to Treat Sleep Apnea

sleep apnea dentistIn most cases, surgery is only recommended for a sleeping disorder after all other treatment options have been exhausted. In fact, many doctors will only perform surgery in such cases as sleep apnea caused by a severely deviated septum

Still, surgery is still quite common for snoring and sleep apnea sufferers, and many sleep dentists offer upper airway surgery as a treatment option.

There are quite a few different types of upper airway surgery that are performed to help deal with sleeping disorders. 

One of the most common surgeries is maxilomandibular advancement, which is a surgical procedure where the jaws are pulled forward to help tighten the soft palate tissue. 

This surgery is incredibly effective with success rates ranging from 94 to 100%. Still, after this surgery it will most likely be necessary to have your jaw wired shut for up to several weeks or even a month. 

Another common type of dental sleep surgery uses traditional surgery, laser, or even radio waves to help shrink the soft palate, uvula, and sometimes even the tongue. This again helps to shrink and tighten these tissues which will help lessen the obstructions of the airways.

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