Q&A: How Can Your Dentist Treat Your Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?
OSA is a very common sleep disorder affecting nearly 29 million Americans. Of that population, 80 percent are unaware that they have the condition. When asleep, a patient suffering from OSA tries to breathe, but is unable to get oxygen into their lungs due to a blockage of their airway. This can cause the patient to snore, gasp for breath and even suddenly wake up.
Why should I care about OSA?
Hold your breath for as long as you can. Now hold it for a few more seconds. Did you feel what happened when you finally allowed yourself to breathe? Your body jumped at the chance to take in oxygen because it knew something was wrong. Something similar happens to you during an obstructive event: Your heart rate shoots up, your blood pressure rises and your body goes into a “fight-or-flight” response. Over time this pattern can take a toll on your health. If left untreated, OSA can increase your chances of contracting other diseases and medical conditions—or worsen your symptoms if you already have them. These conditions include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, dementia, depression, ADHD and even heart failure. The good news is that when patients seek treatment for their OSA, many of them see improvements in these other conditions.
What are the ways that I can treat OSA? How can my dentist help?
The gold standard for treating OSA is Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy. While PAP therapy is effective, a common problem is that most people do not use it as prescribed. Some studies show that over 80 percent of people don’t even use their PAP machines!
The good news is that your dentist can offer you a PAP alternative. An oral appliance can be used to hold your jaw forward while you sleep, opening up your airway and allowing you to breathe. Most patients prefer these appliances to PAP therapy because they are comfortable, easy to sleep with and effective in treating their OSA. Only a skilled dentist can make a custom-fit appliance and monitor your use of it.
Does my medical insurance cover an oral appliance? Does Medicare?
The good news is that most medical insurances, including Medicare, cover oral appliance therapy. Our office is trained in billing medical insurance to maximize your benefits. We are one of the only offices in the state that is allowed to bill Medicare for oral appliance therapy.
It is important to note that there is no dental insurance coverage for sleep apnea appliances. Be wary of any dentists who say they can get your dental insurance to pay for one.
What should I look for in a sleep dentist?
The most important thing is that you go to an American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine "Qualified Dentist." A dentist with that designation has gone through rigorous training in order to provide you with the highest level of care. He or she will know that treatment is not as simple as prescribing a couple of retainers. In fact, regular follow-up appointments and adjustments will be necessary, and it’s important that they are included in your OSA treatment.
Your dentist should know how to work with your medical doctors to properly manage your sleep apnea. Communication is key: Your dentist needs to make sure your medical doctors are aware that you are wearing an oral appliance to treat your OSA, and informed about how well the appliance is working. Be wary of any dentists who do not involve your medical doctors.
A better night’s sleep can be yours when you find a dentist who has the skill, expertise and care to successfully manage your OSA.
Dr. Andrew Swiatowicz is Delaware’s only American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine "Qualified Dentist." His practice, Delaware Dental Sleep Medicine, can provide patients with a successful alternative to PAP therapy. Dr. Andy and his team are skilled at making custom oral appliances that help patients sleep better each and every night. With the ability to bill medical insurance and Medicare, the team can help make your OSA treatment affordable, too. Dr. Andy looks forward to working with his patients and their healthcare teams.
Please visit us at www.delawaredentist.com. If you would like to schedule an appointment, we can be reached at 302-384-7801 or SleepBetterDelaware@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.