Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder that has typically been
treated through surgery or by using a breathing mask—until
The field of sleep dentistry is moving to the forefront of the
profession. Using oral appliance therapy, dentists can treat patients who
suffer from sleep apnea, which causes them to stop breathing throughout
the night and can lead to heart disease and stroke.
After a patient has been assessed and referred by a sleep
doctor, a dentist fits the patient with a mouthguard-like appliance. “You
can move the lower jaw forward to open up the airway,” says Dr. Joseph
Catanzano of Foxhall Smiles in DC.
The mouthpiece is an alternative to a CPAP (continuous positive
airway pressure) machine, which emits air through a breathing mask. While
CPAPs remain the gold-standard treatment, patients often experience
discomfort when using them, including nasal congestion, dry eyes, and a
sore throat. Although the oral appliance—which is fitted to both the upper
and lower jaw—may cause a slight change to a patient’s bite, the American
Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine endorses it for treatment of mild to
moderate sleep apnea in adults. A custom appliance starts at
To find a dentist qualified to treat sleep apnea, visit the
American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine’s website.