What To Expect
Treating snoring and sleep apnea requires a team approach. Dentists cannot, by the limits of licensure, make a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. For that you need to visit a physician. The first step, then, in being treated for snoring or obstructive sleep apnea is to obtain an evaluation by a sleep physician who will provide a formal diagnosis usually based on a medical sleep study. This study can either be done at home or in a hospital or private office sleep center.
After that, the doctor will evaluate you and, in consultation with your sleep physician, will determine whether you are a good candidate for oral appliance therapy and which appliance will be most effective.
The first dental appointment will involve a discussion of the problem, the advantages and limitations of oral appliance therapy in your case, the extent to which insurance will cover the procedures for you and an oral examination including an x-ray of your teeth and jaw joint. Side effects and contraindications will be fully disclosed and discussed.
If you choose to proceed with the therapy, a simple in-home baseline dental sleep study will be done initially to compare to a second study to be done once the appliance is thought to be effective. Impressions will be taken for the appliance.
After the selected appliance is fabricated, you will return for a second appointment for a custom-fitting and instructions on use and care of the oral appliance. After that you will return for approximately two more times for follow-up visits to monitor the effect of the appliance and to make any necessary adjustments. The effectiveness will judged by resolution of your subjective symptoms (snoring and daytime sleepiness) and a second simple in-home dental sleep study.
When the snoring and tiredness have been resolved and the second in-home dental sleep study shows good improvement, you will be referred back to your sleep physician for final evaluation. Most often it will involve another medical sleep study.
Ultimately, our office will follow your progress on a twice per year basis to ensure adequate treatment and to monitor any possible side effects.
Like CPAP, oral appliance therapy for snoring and sleep apnea is not a cure. The dental device must be worn every night for it to be effective. Your progress with the oral appliance should be monitored over time to ensure that the appliance continues to do its job in providing relief of snoring and sleep apnea and to ensure that you remain symptom free.
The doctor will carefully follow and guide your progress throughout your treatment. You will be seen in the office several times to ensure acceptance, comfort and effectiveness of the therapy. Instructions will be given on proper adjustment of the appliance and any areas of discomfort will be addressed. The objective will be to resolve the snoring and daytime tiredness through gently and gradually repositioning the lower jaw. Your personal feedback and several simple in-home dental sleep studies will provide guidance.
Once active therapy is completed you will be reevaluated on a six month or one year visit depending on your individual case.