The truth is, there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with dental treatments for sleep disordered breathing conditions. In the right circumstances and cases, 'oral appliance therapy' is an excellent form of treatment PROVIDED THAT the correct form of dental treatment or oral appliance is being used AND PROVIDED THAT the patient’s condition is one which has been professionally assessed as one which can be properly treated with OAT, AND PROVIDED THAT the dentist has been properly trained in the provision of OAT.
Professional assessment of a sleep disordered breathing condition involves an overnight diagnostic sleep study, or ‘polysomnogram’. These studies record brain activity, heart activity, blood oxygen levels, breathing patterns, sleep posititions and much more, all while the patient is asleep. The study is often performed overnight in a hospital-type environment, but leading edge technology means the study can now often be done in the comfort and privacy of the patients’s home.
In either case, the recordings will be reviewed by an independent specialist sleep physician to diagnose the exact nature of the condition and the appropriate form of treatment.
This is where the problem sometimes starts. Unfortunately, some dental practices have recently begun promoting their ability to provide treatments for snoring and sleep apnoea. They can IF they are working closely with a specialist sleep physician. If they are simply treating patients ‘off the street’ without a preliminary polysomnogram, they are NOT delivering a proper standard of care.
If you are considering gettting treatment for your snoring or sleep apnoea, seek a dentist with extensive experience in the treatment of sleep disordered breathing conditions. Apart from the fact that poorly fitted OAT can actually make the sleep condition worse, a poorly fitted appliance can also cause major problems with the temporo mandibular joint (TMJ).
If possible, ask to be treated by a treatment provider who does not provide only one form of treatment. For instance, most dentists provide only oral appliance therapy. Most CPAP merchants provide only CPAP. Most ENT surgeons provide only surgical options. Find a treatment provider who can either provide alternative forms of treatment OR introduce you to high quality providers of those other forms of treatment.
You’ll get a better result by dealing with an organisation which is able to offer or arrange ALL of these forms of treatment. That way you’ll know you really are getting the best form of treatment for your situation – rather than just the treatment the business person wants to sell you.