CBS 2 News in Chicago reports that a growing number of dentists are practicing “dental sleep medicine.” What does dentistry have to do with sleep?
The most obvious connection between your teeth and your sleep is bruxism. This occurs when you grind or clench your teeth during sleep.
Bruxism can damage your teeth and cause jaw discomfort or pain. It also can briefly disturb your sleep – and wake up your bed partner.
A dental sleep medicine specialist can fit you with a mouth guard that you wear during sleep. This will protect your teeth and reduce the grinding noise.
But dental sleep medicine specialists aren’t just bruxism experts. They also may be able to help you with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. These problems involve a partial or complete blockage of your airway.
A dentist who practices dental sleep medicine can fit you with an oral appliance to wear during sleep. This is similar to an orthodontic retainer. It keeps your airway open by holding your tongue or slightly moving your lower jaw forward.
The AASM approves oral appliance therapy as a treatment for snoring. It also recommends that an oral appliance may be an effective treatment option for mild or moderate sleep apnea.
Treatment with CPAP therapy is the best option for severe sleep apnea. A board-certified sleep specialist at an AASM-accredited sleep center can help you determine which treatment option is best for you.
The sleep center will refer you to a specialist in dental sleep medicine for help with oral appliance therapy.