When you are looking for a dentist to help you with your sleep apnea treatment, there are many different options. Any dentist can become a sleep dentist, often with a short weekend course, or even no training at all. To make sure you are working with a dentist who has the training to handle several complex side effects of sleep apnea treatment, such as bite adjustment and long-term bite stabilization, you should work with an orthodontist.
Recognized Dental Specialties
Legally, dentists can either be licensed as general dentists or as dentists with a specialty. To be a specialist, a dentist must have additional training and certification relevant to their specialty. However, there are many types of dentistry not recognized by the American Dental Association or the Colorado Dental Association. Dentists do not need any training to claim expertise in this type of dentistry.
Recognized dental specialties in the US and Colorado are:
- Dental public health
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology
- Oral and maxillofacial radiology
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery
- Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
- Pediatric dentistry
You will notice that sleep dentist is not on this list, but orthodontics is. This means that when you choose an orthodontist, you know you are choosing a dentist with certain skills and training, while when you are choosing a sleep dentist, you don’t have any guarantee about that dentist’s relevant skills and training.
An orthodontist must take two additional years of dental training focused on both diagnostic and treatment therapies of the teeth, mouth, and oral airway. Orthodontists are dentistry’s airway specialists.
How an Orthodontist Can Improve Sleep Apnea Treatment
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, and the only one that can be treated with an oral sleep appliance, is caused in part by bite disorders that put your jaw in a poor position to support your airway while you sleep. An orthodontist is trained and experienced in recognizing and treating bite disorders and can bring that expertise to the analysis of your jaw position and the recommendation of the proper oral appliance for you.
An orthodontist can also identify when certain developmental issues are related to your sleep apnea, and whether actual orthodontic treatment may help you achieve better results than the use of a removable appliance.
The long-term use of an oral appliance for sleep apnea treatment may also have consequences for the configuration of your bite. Improper use of oral appliances can lead to discomfort, tooth wear, and tooth drift. The orthodontist is also the only dental based sleep therapist that is ideally suited to recognize, possibly avoid, and if needed treat this common yet undesirable side effect of dental mouthpiece treatment. The orthodontist is equipped with the training and ability to control and modify these indirect dental pressures.
The orthodontist is also best suited to treat and understand the challenges of pediatric (growing children) sleep therapies. The traditional dental mouthpiece appliances used to treat non-growing adults with sleep apnea cannot be used in growing children. These appliances will very often cause detrimental changes to the jaws and facial structure if used without the proper supervision and training.
To learn more about how an orthodontist can improve your sleep apnea treatment, please contact Dr. Paul A. Hamersky for an appointment at one of his offices.