The ailments of sleep apnea are becoming more prevalent in today's world. What many people may not be aware of are the links between sleep apnea and dental health care that could provide real and, in some cases, more simple solutions.
"We ask our patients if they snore, wake up tired, or have a CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure, a particular type of ventilation or breathing therapy] that they don't wear or don't like," explained Dr. Terrence Major, a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.
Specific symptoms to look for regarding this issue are a feeling of extreme fatigue while awake, snoring, holding the breath during the night, daytime drowsiness and even frequent nighttime urination, he added. Dr. Major is one of few dentists trained to recognize and help treat this issue, which is crucial to not only dental health, but health overall.
"There are about 20-30 million people in the United States who have obstructive sleep apnea," Dr. Major explained. "Many people in a dental practice either have a diagnosed condition or have never been diagnosed. It is very easy to screen for sleep apnea, so we should screen our patients, as we can help save lives."
He went on to note that undiagnosed, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome can lead to heart attacks or strokes, emphasizing the importance for screening whenever and however possible.
Dental sleep medicine comes into play as dentists build special appliances to treat sleep apnea in these patients.
"Dentists cannot diagnose sleep apnea; it must be done by a sleep specialist," he said. "However, the sleep specialist will then recommend treatment which can be a dental device such as a mandibular advancement appliance, a CPAP or surgery."
Some of the many devices in the realm of oral appliance therapy are better than others, according to Dr. Major. He builds a SomnoMed SomnoDent Flex, a two-piece mouth appliance, exclusively for each client, which fits snuggly over the upper and lower teeth, allowing them to sleep in any position. Many other patients use another appliance, the TAP 3 Elite.
"Some patients are better candidates than others," he noted. "We check to see if the patient can open their mouth adequately, move the jaw forward and have little or no TM joint [temporomandibular joint, the joint of the jaw] discomfort."
Dr. Major said that at his practice, they discuss signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome thoroughly and make recommendations based on a home pulse oximeter screening test.
"If they are showing signs, we refer to a sleep specialist or a sleep center for a detailed diagnosis," he said.
Dr. Major added that nearly 10 percent of his patients have some type of sleep issue. Because dentists often see airway issues, he encourages more to become trained to evaluate sleep issues.
"Creating a referral pattern with a sleep specialist is important for the well-being of our patients and can prevent serious health issues from occurring and could save lives," he said.
Dr. Major, Dr. Austin Roberts and the whole team at Chattanooga Dental Care are proud to offer their patients the finest dental care available anywhere. They strive to bring the best right here to Chattanooga by using modern dental treatments and employing the latest equipment and technology. The team's mission is to meet and exceed patient expectations by making quality, excellence and comfort top priorities. More importantly, Chattanooga Dental Care's team takes great pleasure in providing individualized care for every patient they treat.
"There are about 20-30 million people in the United States who have obstructive sleep apnea," Dr. Major explained. "Many people in a dental practice either have a diagnosed condition or have never been diagnosed. It is very easy to screen for sleep apnea, so we should screen our patients as we can help save lives."
Dr. Terrence Major practices at Chattanooga Dental Care Sedation and General Dentistry at 6102 Shallowford Road. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 423-435-0453 or visit chattanoogadentalcare.com.