Sleep Apnea

Woman covering her ears with a pillow because of her partners loud snoring from sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects airflow during breathing. While sleeping, the muscles in the back of the throat collapse, obstructing the flow of air. This causes sleep disturbance, as well as low blood oxygen levels. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can affect your overall health and eventually cause hypertension, heart disease, mood disorders, and memory problems.

Comparison of a normal airway and an airway affected by sleep apnea

Dental treatment for sleep apnea generally consists of using a dental appliance to reposition the jaw to promote adequate airflow and proper blood oxygen levels. This dental appliance then prevents the surrounding soft tissues from collapsing and obstructing the airway. Dental appliances provide an affordable and easy alternative to CPAP machines and have become and increasingly popular treatment choice.

Did You Know?

Over 18 million Americans are currently affected by some form of sleep apnea. Additionally, it is estimated that approximately 2-20% of children also have sleep apnea.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I have sleep apnea?

Man snoring in bed

You may have sleep apnea if you are a chronic snorer or feel sleep deprived. You may also have difficulty concentrating, be irritable, or suffer from depression, sexual dysfunction, or learning and memory problems. If you think you have sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with your general doctor for a diagnosis. Prior to diagnosing you, your doctor may choose to have you undergo a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea.

Do I need to treat my sleep apnea?

If left untreated, sleep apnea can affect your overall health and quality of life. Besides always feeling fatigued, tired, and unable to focus, you are putting yourself at risk for several other health issues. People with untreated sleep apnea are at an increased risk for hypertension, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

How do dentists treat sleep apnea?

Man placing a red mouth guard into his mouth

Our Bethesda sleep apnea dentists provide a dental solution for sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy. Oral appliance therapy is an effective, minimally-invasive, comfortable, convenient, portable, quiet, and easy treatment for sleep apnea. It uses a dental mouthpiece that positions the jaw forward and keeps the upper airway open. Because of this, dental appliances for sleep apnea are also known as Jaw Advancing Device (JAD) or Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD). Treating obstructive sleep apnea with these specialized mouth guards is beneficial because it reduces the possibility of airway obstruction. Additionally, these dental devices also prevent teeth grinding and clenching.

At Bethesda Dentistry, we will work with your primary health doctor to ensure that you are getting the best treatment for sleep apnea. Once you have your dental appliance, some doctors may order additional sleep studies to determine if the treatment is working properly.

What can I expect during my sleep apnea dental appointment?

During your sleep apnea appointment at Bethesda Dentistry, our dentists will begin with a dental sleep apnea consult. During this consult, our dentists will evaluate your teeth, jaw, tongue, and airway. They will also likely take dental x-rays to get a better look at your mouth and airway. Your treatment options will then be discussed with you and any questions you have will be answered.

Girl having a dental impression taken of her top teeth

To make your dental appliance, a dental impression will need to be taken. During a dental impression, you will bite down into a tray of soft putty that will eventually harden into a rubber-like consistency. This creates a mold of your mouth that is sent to a dental lab and used to custom-fabricate your dental appliance.

Once your dental appliance has been fabricated, our dentists will check its fit and make any adjustments as necessary. They will then discuss how to use and care for your dental appliance.

How will I use my sleep apnea dental appliance?

Our dentists will explain how to use your dental appliance and these directions may vary depending on your individual case. Generally, however, you will wear your dental appliance at night when sleeping and remove it in the morning upon waking. When wearing your sleep apnea dental appliance, you should no longer snore and should wake feeling rested.

How do I care for my sleep apnea dental appliance?

You will need to care for your dental appliance by keeping it clean and protecting it from damage or loss. To keep it clean, simply brush your appliance with toothpaste and rinse with warm water daily. You should avoid excessively hot water because this may cause the shape to warp. To protect your dental appliance from damage or loss, you will always want to store it in its plastic case when it is not in your mouth. You will also need to schedule regular follow-up appointments to assess the fit and condition of your dental appliance.

How do ‘boil and bite’ dental appliances compare?

Over the counter, or “boil and bite”, dental appliances do not have the same type of fit as a dental appliance fabricated in a dental lab and are rarely properly fitted. Because of this, they often do not accomplish the same results and can even cause jaw pain or other complications. At Bethesda Dentistry, we use state of the art dental sleep medicine to ensure that you are getting the best night guard to manage your sleep apnea.

Are there any complications associated with sleep apnea appliances?

As with any type of dental treatment, there is always the possibility of complications. In the case of dental appliances, some side effects can include jaw pain or arthritis, as well as trouble moving your bite into the correct position after removing the appliance. If this happens, speak with your dentist immediately. In some cases, orthodontic treatment can be used to improve teeth position for more comfortable mouth guard use.

What is the cost of a sleep apnea dental appliance?

The cost of your sleep apnea dental appliance will vary depending on the type of appliance you and your dentist decide upon. However, most medical insurance companies will provide coverage for dental appliances used for sleep apnea. It is important to note that since sleep apnea is a medical condition, only medical insurance can be used towards treatment.

For a qualified, experienced, and caring sleep apnea dentist in Bethesda, MD, schedule a consultation at our Ferndale Bethesda Family Dentistry office in Bethesda.