A Dentist’s Role in Improving Sleep

R. Kirk Huntsman

A surprising outlet one who is experiencing difficulty sleeping may have is his or her dentist. While it may seem like a waste of time bringing up sleep issues with a medical professional primarily focused on oral health, dentists have an impressive amount of insight on the connection between your teeth and how well you may be sleeping at night.

Like all medical professionals, a patient’s overall health is the main concern for dentists. With the many connections between oral health and how it affects all areas of the body, those in the dental industry have been trained to identify telltale signs of sleeping issues. For example, the alignment of one’s jaw and decaying enamel may display the habit of grinding teeth while sleeping, or having obstructive sleep apnea altogether.

If your dentist were to suspect that you suffer from a sleep disorder of any kind, you will typically receive a brief interview as they attempt to assess your personal situation, asking about your daily habits, if you happen to feel drowsy during any of those, or if you generally have trouble sleeping at night.

A large number of dentists have been trained to properly treat sleep apnea, and typically offer mandibular advancement devices depending on the nature of one’s case. Tongue retaining devices work best for those who experience excessive snoring, as the tongue is held in a forward position, preventing any blocking of the airway. Continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP, helps provide airflow throughout the night for anyone struggling with sleep apnea, and frequent stoppages in breathing.

If your dentist suspects that you may be experiencing a sleep disorder that may have gone unnoticed, they may be able to provide alternative methods of treatment, or general tips to help you treat the condition yourself. This is not to say that if you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, you should consult your dentist first. Though they may be knowledgeable on the subject, it is not their primary area of focus. You will be (and should be) referred to a sleep physician to properly treat these sleeping complications.

 
However, they can help. If your case is not an emergency, bring the subject up during your next dentist appointment, and he or she may be able to share their knowledge, and help you better control your sleeping patterns.