December 3, 2018

What does sleep apnea have to do with the dentist? Sleep apnea is a fairly common condition in the United States, which occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep. This blockage can reduce, or even completely stop, airflow. Healthcare providers are able to use sleep studies to diagnose this condition. During these studies, oxygen levels in the blood are calculated in order to see if there are any reductions in oxygen while the condition takes place. We sat down with Diane Flexsenhar, DDS who practices here at Christopher Cooley, DDS in Germantown, TN. She answered some of our most asked questions by patients.

What Does The Dentist Have To Do With My Sleep Apnea?

Many patients know that sleep apnea has to do with an obstructed airway, but are confused how a dentist comes into the conversation and treatment plan. Before we jump right to the answer, we need to understand that there are several treatments for patients diagnosed with sleep apnea. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device is the first treatment of choice, but for various reasons such as feeling claustrophobic, disliking the tube attachments, or disliking anything on their face, patients have another option of wearing a sleep apnea appliance, called a mandibular advancement device. This device is placed in their mouth in order to help treat the apnea. The mouth appliance keeps the airway open as the patient sleeps, which is a great alternative to poor compliance with a CPAP device or a more invasive surgery.

A dentist is the only qualified professional who is able to effectively make this type of appliance for an apnea patient. Over the counter products ordered online could potentially cause more harm if the treatment is not monitored by a dentist, so if you have issues with sleep apnea, it would be a good idea to talk to Dr. Diane Flexsenhar on your next visit with her.

How Do I Know if I Have Sleep Apnea?

What are some symptoms to look for to determine if I may have sleep apnea?

Symptoms that may mean you have sleep apnea are snoring, falling asleep easily while watching TV in the middle of the day, sleeping at least 7 hours but still feeling tired in the morning and throughout the day, signs of clenching your teeth and grinding your teeth while sleeping, waking up multiple times in the middle of the night, waking up gasping for air while sleeping, unexplainable weight gain, irritability, and erectile dysfunction.

An easy way to assess risk is with the STOP-BANG risk assessment and the Epworth Sleepiness scale.

What Are The Next Steps To Treat This Condition?

Do I need to see a physician for my sleep apnea? If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, set up an appointment with your family practitioner.  He/She will refer you to a sleep physician who will evaluate you for sleep apnea and determine if you need a sleep test. If you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (there are other kinds of sleep apnea and sleep disorders), then your doctor will have you try a CPAP machine. You can read more about the CPAP machine here.

If you are unable to tolerate the machine, then you will be referred to us at Christopher Cooley, DDS to make you a mandibular advancement device. Every dentist has not gone through the same training as Dr. Diane Flexsenhar, so we feel that we are your best option to treat sleep apnea in Germantown, TN.

Do I Need To Wear A Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD)?

Is this device necessary? Or are there other ways to treat this?  There are some other alternatives, which are the CPAP device previously discussed, or surgery. The surgical procedures could include a tonsillectomy, maxillary or jaw advancement, or tracheostomy. These options are all much more invasive procedures, so we definitely recommend trying the MAD oral appliance for the following reasons:

  • Comfort
  • Easy to wear
  • Quiet
  • Portable
  • Convenient for travel
  • Easy to care for

How Uncomfortable Will The Device Be?

You said that the MAD is comfortable, but my friend has a CPAP device and is always complaining about it. Will the mandibular advancement device be just as bad? Can I take nights off?

The device will be so comfortable that you can actually sleep!!  If you ever take nights off, then you would need to wear a CPAP on those nights, so we recommend that you stick to the routine and wear it every night.

Will My Insurance Cover This?

It really depends on the insurance company, but most medical insurance companies cover a percentage of the cost for you.

Is Every Dentist Qualified To Diagnose Sleep Apnea?

Was there special training involved?

No dentist is qualified to diagnose sleep apnea. A dentist needs a prescription from your medical doctor asking us to make the device and needs to provide a statement saying that you were unable to tolerate the CPAP device.  Any dentist is able to have a MAD fabricated, but it would be in your best interest to seek out a dentist who has had more extensive training through continuing education. Here at Christopher Cooley, DDS, we are extremely proud of Dr. Diane Flexsenhar and her ability to treat your sleep apnea problems. She is highly qualified and has extensive training on this type of condition.

If you would like to learn more about your treatment options for sleep apnea, please contact us today at 901-754-3117, so that you can come visit the best dentist in Germantown, TN. We have patients come from all over the southeast to visit Drs. Cooley and Flexsenhar. They have years of experience and we are always looking forward to helping you with any of your dental needs! Feel free to browse through our website to see more of our cosmetic dentistry solutions, dental implants, Invisalign, porcelain veneers, porcelain crowns, and more.