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Sleep Apnea

Can orthodontic treatment help sleep apnea?

In short, yes. Although orthodontists cannot diagnose and treat obstructive sleep apnea on their own, they may be the first medical professionals to recognize symptoms in adults and children.

Your orthodontist is well-positioned to perform an obstructive sleep apnea screening assessment and refer at-risk patients for diagnostic evaluation. If deemed appropriate by your physician, your orthodontist may work closely with your medical team to help manage the disease.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes and symptoms

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea, and it occurs when the airway becomes blocked due to the relaxation of throat muscles or other airway obstructions.

 Adults with obstructive sleep apnea often snore, gasp, or choke and have witnessed pauses in breathing during sleep. They may also experience frequent night awakenings, non-restorative sleep, morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty with attention and concentration, mood disturbance, and difficulty controlling other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

 Children with obstructive sleep apnea may snore, have witnessed pauses in breathing, and choke or gasp during sleep. Parents may find the child sleeping in unusual positions, such as having the head hanging off the side of the bed, as well as appearing very restless with frequent position changes during sleep. Other symptoms in children include sleepiness which can impact daily activities and school work in older children. Those who previously had discontinued daytime napping may resume daily or near-daily naps. In some children, hyperactivity rather than excessive sleepiness may present. While obesity may be a contributor in some children, others may present with failure to thrive.

Obstructive sleep apnea treatment

Positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy is generally accepted as the gold standard treatment method for obstructive sleep apnea in adults. PAP therapy is delivered through a mask.

In cases where a physician believes that a patient would benefit from changing the position of the teeth and supporting structures, an AAO orthodontist is the most qualified

Orthodontic Treatments of Sleep Apnea

Depending on the exact orthodontic issue that’s causing a person’s obstructive sleep apnea, there are three different types of dental appliances for sleep apnea that Dr. Zaidi might recommend.

First, braces and aligners may be used to treat obstructive sleep apnea caused by misaligned teeth. These devices slowly but methodically move teeth out of their incorrect positions and into positions where the teeth won’t block the airway. Braces and aligners can both be used to treat children’s and adults’ sleep apnea, with aligners offering a less noticeable look than braces.

Second, a rapid palate expander is sometimes used to treat obstructive sleep apnea issues in children. The device is affixed to the upper molars by cemented bands or bonding, and it has a portion that bridges across the upper jaw. The purpose of a rapid palate expander is to help widen the space in the upper jaw. Using temporary anchor devices or TADs Dr. Zaidi can now expand at any age helping open the airway.

Third, a mandibular advancement splint is a custom-fit brace that changes jaw alignment during sleep. The device moves the lower jaw slightly forward and downward. The effect of this small movement is a widening of the airway, which reduces the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.

When a dental appliance for sleep apnea is deemed appropriate by an orthodontist, the appliance will have substantial benefits over a CPAP machine. Compared to the machine, braces, aligners, rapid palate expanders, and mandibular advancement splints are smaller, less noticeable, and quieter. Sometimes they need to be used with a CPAP machine, but in certain cases, a dental appliance for sleep apnea may eventually eliminate the need for a CPAP machine.

For other patients, surgery including maxillary or mandibular jaw advancement may be considered. 

Call Zaidi Orthodontics, today and schedule an exam with Dr. Zaidi to see if orthodontic treatment can help you get a good night’s sleep!