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Sleep disorders don't just affect marriages, they harm the quality of a good night's rest and can cause some serious health risks. Now some dentists are playing a key role in the treatment of certain sleep disorders, including snoring and sleep apnea, according to a report in the July/August 2001 issue of General Dentistry, the clinical, peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
"Your dentist should be able to complete an initial consultation to determine the problem by asking how you are feeling upon wakening or if you wake up in the middle of the night," says AGD spokesperson T. Bob Davis, DMD, FAGD. Once the initial consultation is completed, your dentist might consult with a physician or a sleep clinic to determine a diagnosis.
Snoring is caused by vibration at the back of the throat, and dental appliances sometimes help to minimize or eliminate the problem. "The diagnosis is key because snoring alone doesn't automatically signify a serious problem. For basic snorers, an oral appliance can provide relief because it repositions the jaw, muscles, tissue and tongue. The appliance helps breathing become less labored, giving a person more room to breath quietly," says Dr. Davis.
For those with sleep apnea, a much more serious condition, Dr. Davis refers patients to a sleep clinic to make the diagnosis. People with sleep apnea do not get enough oxygen during sleep, and breathing actually stops for a short period of time, predisposing them to impaired daytime functioning, high blood pressure, heart attack and possibly stroke.
If you snore, most dentists can help or refer you to a physician to determine if there is an underlying medical problem. If you want to try to reduce the symptoms of snoring yourself, Dr. Davis recommends losing weight, quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption when appropriate.
Reviewed: January 2012
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