Ever been woken by your alarm only to feel like you haven’t slept at all, with brain fog or a headache? Frustrating, isn’t it? Especially if your partner tells you that you’ve been snoring all night. You feel wiped, and have to down several coffee cups a day just to get the minimum done.
What if I told you may have an airway sleep disorder (ASD) – like sleep apnea?
You may scoff, but it’s a reality for many Americans – young and old, fat and thin. And it’s not your fault – though of course there are always lifestyle factors to consider.
But before you’re forced to hook yourself up to a noisy CPAP machine every night, there’s an alternative treatment to consider that’s much less invasive – and, in a happy coincidence, it can help improve your appearance!
Can Dentists Treat Sleep Apnea?
As you’re used to making an appointment with your primary care doctor, so that they can refer you to a specialist, the idea of consulting a dentist to help with sleep apnea, or any other ASD, may seem downright odd. But AirwayCentric® Dentistry focuses on your sleep disordered breathing because we recognize that your body isn’t made up of separate parts – everything is linked. Unfortunately a narrowed airway day or night can cause a number of health issues which may not be obvious or intuitive.
Airway , Breathing and Sleep complications include:
- Brain fog
- Deep fatigue
- Morning headaches
- Increased stress response
- Poor gut health
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- In addition to the APOE4 gene, an increased risk of Alzhiemer’s disease
Remember orthodontics are not just for children – as an adult you can achieve amazing results, creating a permanent change in feeling and appearance without surgery. But not all orthodontics can help if you have an underlying ASD – and I’ve written before about the dangers of using clear aligners with unresolved TMJ.
So yes: the right dentist can certainly help you with your sleep-related breathing disorder, provided you work together on your treatment plan and you’re ready to tackle some underlying triggers, such as diet and sleep hygiene.
Can Sleep Apnea Cause Dental Problems?
When you have an airway sleep disorder, you breathe through your mouth in your sleep, often creating a slack-jawed effect, as you desperately gasp for air. Your mouth should be closed as you sleep as it protects the delicate and moist environment of your gums and teeth. Though a certain level of “morning mouth” should be expected when you wake, if you have sleep apnea you may wake up with an incredibly dry mouth.
Though drool can seem gross at times, it’s actually vital to your health.
Saliva works in the mouth to:
- rinse away food debris
- maintain soft and hard surfaces in the mouth
- repair soft tissues
- neutralize the harmful acids excreted by bacteria
- provide proteins that allow the oral microbiome to attach to surfaces – but also works as a host to bacteria itself.
A lack of saliva is bad news for your dental health and mouth microbiome. A dry mouth contributes to an increased risk of gum disease and cavities. In turn, these conditions can cause complications down the line – not just loss of teeth, but an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and serious infection. So it’s clear that sleep apnea is not just about disturbed sleep – and that dentists should take an interest in your breathing!
Why Choose Airway Focused Orthodontics?
Airway centered dentistry is a life-changing approach to your health, where we take a look not only in your mouth, but also at your posture, lifestyle, gut health, and much more. With AirwayCentric® dentistry, we use a mix of functional medicine and a developed range of treatments to ensure we tackle your airway sleep disorder at the root cause.
When treating obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), an airway centric oral appliance is an excellent alternative to using a CPAP machine long-term. CPAP machines can be noisy, bulky and awkward to take on travels – and can often result in you feeling claustrophobic while wearing the mask. Orthodontics are also less extreme than undergoing surgery, with the associated risks and recovery time.
With regular appointments, your AirwayCentric® dentist can ensure your comfort, and monitor to see that treatment is proceeding correctly. If you concentrate on changing the underlying issue of crowding of teeth, jaw position, and weak muscles, your dental health, smile, and breathing at night can all improve. We all want to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day – is it time to make that change?
What Is the Best Dental Device for Sleep Apnea?
The best dental device for combating any airway sleep disorder is one that’s tailor-made for you and your mouth. At the Gelb Center, we’ve used oral appliances for over 27 years, and we continue to make improvements to our own designs based on the feedback we receive from patients. Our airway dental devices reflect the care that we take with our patients – each appliance is made to order using measurements and imaging for full precision.
Oral appliances work to open up your airway by expanding your palate, and making room for your tongue by moving your upper and lower jaw forward. Your soft palate and tongue are what causes the snoring sound! The way this technique works is why this form of treatment is often described as Face Forward Orthodontics.
At the same time, your appliance widens the gap between the lateral pharyngeal walls – through direct contact and by stimulating the surrounding pharyngeal muscles. Your oral appliance is regularly measured and adjusted in increments to ensure airway sleep disorder symptoms are neutralized – so you can get a good night’s sleep. Best of all – the treatment doesn’t reverse with time!
At the Gelb Center we favor several orthodontic devices for airway sleep disorders including:
- Maxillary Skeletal Expander (MSE) – The Microimplant-assisted Rapid Palatal Expansion (MARPE) designed by Dr. Won Moon significantly helps open your nasal airway so you can breathe more easily. We see great results when we combine it with decortication of the palate – a treatment that can speed up the movement of teeth.
- Distraction Osteogenesis Maxillary Expansion (DOME) – Dr Stanley Lui designed this device to specifically treat adult patients with obstructive sleep apnea who have a high arched palate, which causes a narrow nasal floor above.
These techniques all involve mini implants or screws in the palate to more effectively open up the airway alongside expanding your palate. The devices are always fitted under anesthesia and don’t hurt once in.
So if you’re sick of waking up with a headache, brain fog, or being poked awake by your partner for snoring, it may be time to get in touch with an Airway Health dental practitioner who has experience with treating airway disorders.
If you’d like to learn more about our AirwayCentric® approach, pick up a copy of GASP!: Airway Health – The Hidden Path To Wellness by Dr. Michael Gelb and Dr. Howard Hindin. If you’re struggling with sleep apnea or UARS in the New York area and are looking treatment, fill out our contact form, or call to make an appointment with Dr. Gelb on (212) 752-1662.