I went to the dentist and they told me that it looks like I have sleep apnea. Where do I go from here? What does my dentist have to do with a sleep disorder? Can a dentist diagnose sleep apnea?
Doctors Answers (8)
A dentist cannot diagnose sleep apnea. They can, however, SCREEN for this disorder and then refer you to get a sleep study. The dentist in evaluating the oral-pharyngeal airway, AND the oral structures, as well as asking questions about your sleep hygiene and quality of sleep is within their practice parameters to then refer you to a medical professional for a definitive diagnosis (which usually requires a sleep study). If diagnosed with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, the dentist then can TREAT you for this disorder. I recommend that your dentist, in providing treatment, be sure to stay in contact with your medical provider because OSA is a very fluid disorder and must be managed.
A dentist can suspect sleep disordered breathing (which usually includes snoring) by seeing the effect of drying on the gums and the swelling of the uvula. Dentists often train to make custom fitted devices which, when worn at night, advance the mandible (jaw bone) preventing the tongue and soft palate from collapsing and obstructing the airway. I am not a dentist. There may be other observations.
Your dentist is not involved in diagnosis but possibly treatment if you are considering a dental device. You need a referral to a sleep doctor.
A dentist cannot diagnose sleep apnea. Only your primary care physician or sleep medicine physician can diagnose sleep apnea after a sleep study test is completed. Your dentist probably recognized the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and should refer you to your physician for proper diagnosis. The next step is a referral to a sleep center by your physician for an appropriate sleep study to diagnose or rule out sleep apnea. Once properly diagnosed with sleep apnea, a dentist, such as myself, can assist in the treatment of sleep apnea by fabricating an oral appliance that gently moves the lower jaw forward thereby opening the oropharynx, the breathing space behind to tongue and soft palate.
Typically dentists notice that a person snores or stops breathing while under anesthetic. Also there are some facial/oral abnormalities that indicate a higher risk for sleep apnea. A person would typically consult a Board Certified Sleep Specialist for evaluation and referral for a sleep study would be discussed and provided if indicated.
Any doctor can refer you for a study. You must go to a sleep center to be properly diagnosed. Please call our center, Vector Sleep, if you decide to get tested. Sleep Apnea can lead to many other symptoms that your dentist may have picked up on.
A dentist CANNOT diagnoses sleep apnea, but if a dentist suspects it, he or she can refer you to your physician or sleep doctor that can diagnose it. Dentists can administer a Home Sleep Study if they have the machine to let patients rent it out, and a sleep doctor who works with the Home Sleep Study can diagnose any sleep conditions. The dentist can fabricate an oral appliance if you are a good candidate.
Your dentist cannot Diagnose sleep apnea, only a Medical Doctor trained in sleep
medicine and a properly done polysomnogram can diagnose sleep apnea. Your dentist
may be a dentist like me who is trained in sleep medicine and sleep dentistry who
knows what clinical signs to look for in your mouth; such as evidence of severe
bruxism or grinding, mandibular tori, abfractions, scalloping of the tongue, small
arches, retruded lower jaw, deep bite and small or narrow pharyngeal airway to name
a few. They also may notice some things on your medical history that may lead them
to believe you might have sleep apnea. They are referring you for a sleep study to
rule out sleep apnea, or confirm it, so you can be treated medically for this
serious medical condition. Your dentist may get involved later if it is determined
you are unable to handle conventional treatment of sleep apnea. They will then
maybe make a dental appliance to help with your sleep apnea.