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Eye-Opening Facts About Sleep Apnea Treatment

3 months ago

Healthy Smiles By Rita Tempel, DDS – This column was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, July 15, 2021

There is a massive recall underway for a popular CPAP unit, affecting sleep apnea patients nationwide. If you or a loved one is affected, I’d like to offer advice and an alternate solution, to help you make an informed decision about your continued treatment.

Sleep apnea is a condition, diagnosed by a physician. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, with a mask patients wear while sleeping, is how many patients manage their sleep apnea.

Supply chain issues continue to plague numerous industries. If you’re waiting for a replacement CPAP, I encourage you to reconsider your treatment and find out if oral appliance therapy could work for you. As a Diplomate of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), I find that many patients discover an oral appliance to be a more comfortable, easier, and just as effective, form of treatment.

The first step toward an oral appliance is a referral, from your physician, to visit a sleep-qualified dentist (one that meets the AADSM criteria in training) or a Diplomate of the AADSM such as my Sweet Dreams Gettysburg practice, to be evaluated for an oral appliance.

I realize we’re talking about a sleep-related subject, but I am going to share some eye-opening facts—pardon the pun!

Myth: CPAP is the only therapy for sleep apnea.

Truth: Oral appliance therapy uses a “mouth guard-like” device worn during sleep to maintain an open, unobstructed airway. Effective oral appliances are formed from custom dental impressions made by a qualified dentist. An oral appliance is fitted and adjusted by a qualified dentist to ensure proper fit and maximum effectiveness. Patients like that oral appliances are easy to use, clean and transport. They are also comfortable, noninvasive, noise-free and less obtrusive compared to CPAP.

Myth: Oral appliance therapy isn’t as effective.

Truth: Oral appliances have similar effectiveness and better rates of patient compliance at home. This translates into reduced sleepiness, improved quality of life, reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality and reduced blood pressure.

Myth: Oral appliance therapy can be provided by any dentist.

Truth: A qualified dentist who has appropriate training in the field of dental sleep medicine can guide your oral appliance therapy. The AADSM maintains a directory of qualified dentists.  

Myth: Oral appliances cause tooth movement.

Truth: Qualified dentists are trained to mitigate side effects such as potential tooth movement.

Myth: CPAP is less expensive than oral appliance therapy.

Truth: CPAP treatment requires patients to replace masks, filters and tubes regularly. Oral appliance therapy can be the more cost-effective option.

Myth: Oral appliance therapy isn’t covered by insurance.

Truth: It’s actually covered by most commercial medical insurance and Medicare. It is not covered by dental insurance. Qualified dentists have familiarity with medical insurance and the necessary documentation, pre-authorization and other requirements.

My practice is currently booking sleep patients in the September and October timeframe, so I highly encourage patients interested in oral appliance therapy to call me with their questions and/or appointment requests.

Well-informed decisions, like good nights’ sleep, provide peace of mind. I hope this column helps you consider your options as you seek that peace of mind and optimum health.

Dr. Rita Tempel is an Accredited Member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and owner of Gettysburg Smiles Cosmetic & Family Dentistry as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine and owner of Sweet Dreams Gettysburg, 2018 York Road, Gettysburg. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow @ritatempeldds on Instagram, or like her Facebook page @Gettysburgsmiles or call 717-339-0033.

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