Do you suspect that you have a sleeping disorder, such as sleep apnea? If you’re constantly waking up feeling fatigued or your family consistently complain about your snoring, you may feel overwhelmed with where to start when it comes to finding a sleep dentistry provider.
In other scenarios, people with known sleep apnea conditions learn that they’re CPAP intolerant or simply want a more discreet alternative to having a machine sitting on their bedside table each night.
In either scenario, sleep apnea treatment alternatives (such as sleep dentistry) may be rushing through your head. Especially if you’re getting ready to initiate the screening process or discuss treatment options with your physician.
Only Dentists Offer Sleep Dentistry Appliances
An oral sleep appliance is an FDA-approved medical device that enhances sleep quality by preventing airway blockage at the back of the throat. Oddly enough, even though they are a piece of medical equipment that requires the prescription of a licensed physician, only dentists can fit and deliver an oral appliance. So that means you either need to see the sleep dentistry provider directly or ask to have your current sleep specialist approve an oral sleep aid.
You can’t get an oral appliance from your sleep physician or pulmonologist. Similarly, you can’t get a CPAP from your dentist. But only sleep dentists can provide the right type of mouthpiece for something like obstructive sleep apnea. Some people even find that they can wear the appliances at the same time for maximum effectiveness.
When you choose the best sleep dentist in Raleigh, they’ll work with your existing medical provider or have their own specialist to help facilitate the treatment. You don’t have to navigate the step-by-step process all on your own. A team like the one at Raleigh Dental Arts can walk you through it.
Your Dentist’s Training and Experience
Before you choose a sleep dentistry office, it’s important to do a bit of background research. Not all dentists have training in fitting and delivering sleep dentistry mouthguards. Since it’s beyond the scope of routine restorative dentistry, only certain dentists may choose to go out of the way to seek out specialized training in the area of sleep dentistry. In those situations, they often complete numerous hours in courses related to screening, diagnosing, and treating a specific type of sleeping disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is the only type of sleep disordered breathing condition that is manageable with the assistance of an oral sleep appliance.
When it’s time to schedule, find out if the dentist is trained in sleep dentistry and how long it’s something they’ve been providing in their office.
At Raleigh Dental Arts, our sleep dentistry providers have extensive training in all aspects of care related to oral therapy for sleeping disorders. We’re doing everything we can to screen for sleep apnea in our at-risk patients. Through early intervention and diagnosis, we can better the overall health of the individuals whom we serve. When your sleep health is better, you have a lower risk of suffering from medical emergencies like cardiovascular attacks. Snoring isn’t just annoying; it could be a red flag that something more serious lies ahead. You need a provider who recognizes the warning signs before it’s too late.
Their Network with Sleep Physicians
Choosing the best sleep dentistry provider usually means finding a dentist with close ties to licensed sleep physicians. When that’s the case it prevents you from having to do unnecessary back-and-forth referrals and expedites a higher quality of care.
For instance, at Raleigh Dental Arts we have partnering sleep physicians who work with us to read medical data, interpret it, and prescribe appropriate oral sleep appliances for our patients when necessary. That way we can act as a facilitator, advisor, and provider all in one convenient location.
If your dentist doesn’t have access to a networking sleep physician, they may have to send you back to another specialist’s office and only be able to provide a dental appliance if you first don’t respond to conventional CPAP treatment.
Types of Sleep Services Offered
There are a variety of different dental sleep apnea appliances on the market. Today’s conventional designs work in a holistic manner that naturally opens the airway at the back of your throat. By preventing a collapse of your soft tissues and tongue, you can avoid sealing off the airway and instantly boost oxygen flow while you’re sleeping.
Oral appliances that you get from a sleep dentist are different than something like a “snore guard” that you will find online or in stores. Since special calibration is needed to ensure appropriate tissue positioning, you’ll see the best results from a custom fitted appliance. Plus, these devices will conform to the unique shape of your smile for improved comfort and fit.
Since there are so many different types of sleep appliances on the market, you want to find a dentist with first-hand experience and input on how each one works. Understanding the advantages of different mouthpieces and how they work for your given situation can allow for faster results, more comfortable treatment, and a less-stressful experience. For instance, some mouthpieces guide your lower jaw forward, while others focus on your tongue position. Depending on your unique oral anatomy, you’re likely to see better results from some types of devices than others.
Are Home Sleep Studies Available?
Now for one of the most important things to keep in mind. Before anyone can get a prescription for a sleep appliance such as a mouthpiece or CPAP, they need to complete a sleep study.
Traditionally, sleep studies were something that you completed in an off-site lab. The process meant staying overnight in a doctor’s office, sleeping in a strange bed, being in an unfamiliar room, and knowing that there was a medical professional on the other side of the window or monitor who was able to evaluate your sleeping habits. This fact alone is almost enough to deter a lot of people away from getting help for their sleep apnea.
Approved sleep dentists can offer a more convenient alternative than sending you to a sleep lab. It’s called a “home sleep study.”
With a home sleep study, you take the small piece of equipment home with you for the night, then bring it back the next day. It consists of a special device that goes over your finger and is connected to a wrist strap. There’s a small cable and a sensor that you clip or stick just below your neck, which can record things like snoring. When you’re ready to go to bed, just press the button and it will start recording the data. Home sleep tests are able to monitor your blood oxygen levels, respiratory rates, and even the depth of sleep that you’re in.
Once you bring the equipment back to your prescribing dentist, it’s read and interpreted by a licensed medical provider. At that point we can rule out whether or not you have sleep apnea, the suspected type of sleeping disorder, and prescribe an oral appliance if it is appropriate.
Ask if They Take Your Medical Insurance
Sleep apnea is a medical condition. As such, therapies for sleeping disorders are typically covered under benefits related to your medical insurance policy. But most dentists only work with dental insurance carriers.
If you’re planning to see a dentist for an oral sleep appliance, be sure to check with their office and find out if they work with medical insurance. As long as your dental provider’s office is properly situated to work with medical benefits, then you can likely use your coverage toward an oral appliance. If they don’t, then you’ll have to figure out how to file the claim on your own or risk simply paying for it out of pocket.
Although it doesn’t sound like quite a big deal, dental and medical insurance benefits are quite different from one another. They require separate documents, codes, and approvals. So, if you want to tap into your existing medical benefits, you need a dental office who is equipped to process those claims for you. Most experienced sleep dentistry providers will. Newer ones may not.
Do They Offer Sleep Dentistry Treatments?
Most dentists are capable of performing a “sleep disorder screening” in their office. Checking for certain risk factors — such as worn teeth, enlarged tonsils, or a large neck circumference — can predict whether it’s likely that you have a sleeping disorder. But unless they provide clinical testing and prescribed appliances, you will still need to see a separate provider for your treatment.
Fortunately, if you live in the Raleigh area, Raleigh Dental Arts provides comprehensive sleep dentistry screenings, evaluations, and treatments. We work with your medical insurance when needed, arrange for physician input, and deliver your customized sleep appliance to help you combat obstructive sleep apnea at its source: your mouth.
Think you or your loved one might have sleep apnea? Is chronic snoring an every night issue? If so, contact Raleigh Dental Arts to schedule an exam and find out how we can help.