Obstructive Sleep Apnea affects approximately 22 million Americans. This condition causes you to stop breathing several times each night. People with sleep apnea can also be at risk for health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. While symptoms of sleep apnea are known, they can often be explained away. Many of those cases are undiagnosed because the symptoms look like something else…often a dental problem.
Grinding and Sleep Apnea
Teeth Grinding or Bruxism can cause facial pain and headaches, but can also be an indicator of this sleep disorder. Scientists now believe that tooth grinding is one method the body uses to wake itself up enough to reopen the upper airway and resume breathing.
The link between bruxism and sleep apnea makes it more important than ever to see your dentist if you are experiencing these symptoms:
- Morning headache or facial pain
- Chronic headaches
- Unnatural tooth wear
- Regular, loud snoring
What to Do Next for Sleep Apnea?
Many people think of dentists as teeth doctors. However, dentists are really the expert doctors when it comes to treating a variety of conditions that involve the face and mouth. That is why dental treatment for sleep apnea is becoming more and more recognized.
- If you suspect you are grinding your teeth, the first step to take is to see Dr. Schraw (or if outside the Charlotte area, then your local dentist) for an appointment. An examination will be able to determine if you are indeed grinding your teeth.
- You should see a sleep specialist who can determine whether you have sleep apnea or not. Not everyone who grinds their teeth at night and snores has sleep apnea, and treatment may be different if you don’t have sleep apnea. If you’ve had a sleep study done and have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, you should discuss your treatment options, including whether a MAD mouth guard is an appropriate treatment for your particular medical situation.
How Dr. Schraw can Help
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, chances are your sleep doctor will recommend the use of a CPAP machine to force oxygen into your lungs and keep you breathing during sleep. Except, most people have trouble falling asleep and sleeping well using CPAP machines. In fact, studies reported by the New York Times show 50% of patients stop using the CPAP machines within 3 weeks.
The problems with CPAP machines is they are:
- Too loud for a spouse to tolerate in the same room
- Uncomfortable to the point many people rip them off during sleep
- Not portable. A problem when you travel.
Special custom fitted mouth guards or oral appliances are now considered a good alternative to CPAP machines for moderate to severe sleep apnea or a less invasive treatment for those with mild sleep apnea. Other than weight loss or surgery, the American Sleep Apnea Association lists mouth guards as the only viable treatment for those with higher risk due to severe sleep apnea.
Dr. Schraw can fit you with a special mouth guard (called a Mandibular Advancement Device or MAD) to keep your airway open at night. This mouth guard fits over the upper and lower teeth and pushes the lower jaw forward. It also helps prevent snoring and grinding. To learn more about MAD mouth guards, please call our office or request an appointment online.
Learn More About a Custom Sleep Apnea Mouth Guard
Why Custom MAD Mouth Guards are Needed
There are a lot of different types of mouth guards. The ones you use for sports are quite a bit different than the ones you’d use for dental, snoring, or sleep apnea reasons.
Sports mouthguards are designed to prevent damage to the teeth during an impact. You’ll see boxers, football players, and other athletes wearing different versions of these.
There are also a good variety of anti-grinding appliances you can buy. These are designed to put a layer of protective material between your teeth to keep the surface of your teeth from being ground down.
The first two types won’t help you with sleep apnea and you have to be careful with the third type as well. There are a number of snore guards on the market. But not all of them are mandibular advancement devices. Some are called tongue stabilizing devices (TSD) and operate in a completely different way in an attempt to reduce the noise from snoring. Only MAD guards are recommended to help with sleep apnea.
While you can buy a number of different MAD guards on the internet these days, not all mouthguards are created equal. Most are not very form-fitting, which could lead to them falling out or becoming uncomfortable at night. That is because they either have no specific conformity to your particular bite or they use a process that was designed for inexpensive sports mouth guards sold at big box stores. In this fitting process, you use hot water to soften the plastic of the mouthpiece and bite into it while the plastic cools down. While the fit using this process is generally acceptable for short-term use, the fit usually doesn’t hold well over time.
By going to a dental practice to have your MAD mouth guard made, you are able to achieve a long-lasting comfortable fit. That is because the dentist will take a mold of your teeth, just like they would do if they were creating a crown for a dental implant or restorative procedure. Dentists are trained to do these types of molds and need to do them all the time. They understand the importance of fit and pay attention to the details that make the guard stay in the mouth and remain comfortable for a full night’s sleep.
Ready to get started? See more about Sleep Apnea Mouth Guards or make your appointment today.