Many of us associate sleep apnea treatments with the use of a CPAP machine, which provides a steady stream of air to individuals who have difficulty sleeping at night. Orthodontists can play a key role in treating sleep apnea by addressing jaw alignment issues through orthodontic treatments like metal braces and Invisalign. Read on to learn how orthodontics can treat this condition. |
What is sleep apnea?
The Sleep Apnea Foundation reports that around 22 million Americans have the sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. The most common form of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea, which results from a soft tissue obstruction that blocks normal breathing during sleep. Symptoms of OSA include loud snoring and periods of breathing cessation during the night. Often, it's the patient's partner who is first alerted to symptoms of OSA.
Individuals who suffer from OSA are at increased risk for serious health problems, including high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and even dementia. The first step in treating OSA is to see a qualified orthodontist who can coordinate care with your primary care physician.
How can orthodontic problems cause sleep apnea?
Any physical obstruction can potentially interfere with nighttime breathing. Misaligned teeth (malocclusion) can lead to overbite or underbite. Overbite, in particular, can allow the tongue to slip back toward the throat, which can impede breathing at night. By addressing jaw alignment through orthodontic treatments, patients can regain the ability to breathe freely at night. In short, many patients can benefit from the availability of more "tongue space" following orthodontic treatment.
How do I know if orthodontics can address my OSA?
Only a qualified dentist or orthodontist can determine if orthodontic treatments can address your sleep apnea symptoms. Even if braces or Invisalign cannot address your OSA symptoms, dentists can prescribe an oral appliance that positions your tongue and jaws to allow for maximum airflow at night. An oral appliance is often an affordable and convenient alternative to a CPAP machine.
During your exam, your dentist or orthodontist will use x-rays or digital images to determine if your jaws are out of alignment and if malocclusion is the cause. If you are found to have an overbite, you may be a good candidate for corrective treatments through orthodontics. Patients who have significant underbite may be a better candidate for an oral appliance.
When are orthodontics not a good treatment for sleep apnea?
Braces and Invisalign cannot address OSA symptoms related to obesity, enlarged tonsils, loss of muscle tone in the throat, and certain conditions. Patients who have significant jaw alignment issues may require corrective jaw surgery.
What should I expect from my orthodontic treatment?
Candidates for orthodontic treatments should be aware that their treatment timeline could take several months to a few years to complete. Metal braces give orthodontists a greater degree of control over your treatment and may be ideal for complicated cases. Invisalign treatments allow patients to enjoy discrete treatment. Both treatments can be highly effective, and your orthodontist can explain which option may be more effective for treating your OSA symptoms.
Call Aviara Centers today at 714-230-2434 or visit us online to schedule your consultation with one of our dentists.
Dr. Katherine Ahn Aviara Centers 714-230-2434
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