Dream Dental Paul H. Kim, DDS

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that currently affects over 18 million Americans. There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to communicate breathing signals while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat essentially collapse and restrict airflow. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea.

To treat obstructive sleep apnea, a dental appliance may be required. The dental treatment for sleep apnea uses a custom-fitted mouthpiece to position the jaw so that the upper airway remains open and free from obstruction. In doing so, the dental appliance promotes adequate airflow, good blood oxygen levels, and a deeper level of restful sleep.

Illustration of a normal airway and an obstructed airway with sleep apnea

Did You Know?

In some cases, dental appliances can be used as a sleep apnea treatment alternative to CPAP. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, uses a constant stream of air to keep the airway open. However, some people find CPAP machines to be loud, uncomfortable, or expensive. In these cases, a dental solution for sleep apnea treatment may be beneficial.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleepy woman sitting at desk in front of her laptop with her face drooping in her hands and her eyes hardly open

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Chronic or loud snoring
  • Problems with memory or concentrating
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Falling asleep at work, while driving, or on the phone

If you have any of the above symptoms, you should schedule a consultation with your primary physician. Because sleep apnea is a medical condition, it can only be diagnosed by a medical doctor. In most cases, a sleep study may be required to properly diagnose sleep apnea.

Do I need to seek treatment for sleep apnea?

Seeking treatment for sleep apnea is highly recommended because it can have serious implications on your health if left untreated. For starters, sleep apnea can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, sleepiness while driving, and difficulty concentrating. When left untreated, sleep apnea has also been shown to increase the risk of coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, stroke, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and congestive heart failure.

Can dental treatment help my sleep apnea?

Yes! Dental treatment for sleep apnea uses a dental mouthpiece to open your airways and promote good airflow. It works by repositioning the jaw to open your upper airway. Coined as oral appliance therapy by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, dental sleep apnea treatment is a minimally-invasive way to treat sleep apnea. Additionally, this type of treatment is comfortable, quiet, portable, easy to wear and care for, and convenient.

What can I expect when receiving dental treatment for my sleep apnea at Dream Dental?

The first step in receiving dental treatment for sleep apnea is to undergo a dental sleep apnea consult. During this consult, Dr. Kim will evaluate your teeth, bite,jaw, tongue, and airway, as well as take dental x-rays of your airway. He may also discuss your symptoms or refer to any documents provided by your primary physician. To conclude your consultation, he will discuss the proposed treatment plan and answer any questions you may have.

dental impression trays with orange impression material and teeth marks

To move forward with treatment, a dental impression will be taken of your mouth. To obtain a dental impression, you will bite down into a tray of a soft material that will harden into a rubber-like consistency after one minute. This mold of your mouth will then be sent to a dental laboratory and used to fabricate a dental device that is custom-fitted to your mouth.

When your sleep apnea oral appliance has been completed, you will come back into the office so that Dr. Kim can test the fit. In some cases, minor adjustments may need to be made so that your mouth guard-like appliance will fit properly and comfortably. During this appointment, Dr. Kim will also discuss how to use and care for your new dental apparatus.

How will I use my dental device for sleep apnea?

To use your dental device effectively to treat sleep apnea, you will likely be instructed to wear it every night when you go to sleep and remove it every morning upon waking. Your dental device should prevent snoring and you should wake up feeling rested.

How do I care for my sleep apnea dental device?

Dental mouthguard on a model of the teeth next to a plastic protective case

To care for your sleep apnea dental device, simply rinse with warm water after you remove it from your mouth and be sure to brush it with toothpaste. To protect your dental device from losing its shape, you will need to avoid exposing it to extremely hot water. Additionally, when you are not wearing your dental appliance, you should keep it in its plastic protective case to avoid it becoming damaged or lost.

You will also want to bring your dental device with you to every six month dental checkup so that Dr. Kim can check its condition and fit. It is normal for the fit to change and various adjustments may need to be made to ensure that it still fits correctly and is functioning properly.

Can I just use a ‘boil and bite’ mouthguard instead?

Dream Dental advises against using over the counter, boil and bite mouthguards because they often do not result in the same fitted mouthguards that your dental lab can fabricate. Although boil and bite mouthpieces are a treatment option for sleep apnea patients, they lack the same success rates as custom-fitted dental mouthguards. Additionally, because they are not properly fitted, they can cause side effects such as jaw pain.

What are the side effects of dental mouthguards for sleep apnea?

Side effects of dental mouthguards are rare but can include jaw pain, arthritis, and an uneven bite. To minimize these risks, it is important to have your mouthguard custom made and to have regular adjustments. In some cases, orthodontic treatment may be beneficial for proper bite alignment prior to having a dental device placed.

What do dental devices for sleep apnea cost?

The cost of your sleep apnea dental device will depend upon the type of device you and Dr. Kim agree upon. However, it is important to note that sleep apnea dental devices are only covered under medical insurance, not dental insurance. With that being said, many medical insurance plans will cover the cost of your dental sleep apnea device.

Dream Dental is committed to providing an exceptional dental experience to patients in Torrance, Palos Verdes, Gardena, and the surrounding South Bay areas. Schedule a consultation with your Torrance sleep apnea dentist Dr. Paul H. Kim today!

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