Sleep Apnea in Dentistry: How Your Dentist Can Help You Sleep Better

Did you know that dentistry can actually play a big role in treating sleep apnea?

According to, “Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is estimated to affect between 10% and 30% of adults in the United States, making it the most common type of sleep apnea.”

But the good news is that there are treatment options available that even your dentist can provide. 

From custom-fit oral appliances to positional therapy, dentistry has a lot to offer when it comes to helping people get a good night’s sleep. 

So if you’re looking for some relief from your sleep apnea symptoms, be sure to talk to your dentist about what solutions may be available to you.

What is Sleep Apnea?

 sleep apnea in dentistry - woman using CPAP machine

Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. 

It’s like your body keeps “forgetting” to breathe for a few seconds at a time. You’ll wake just enough to take a breath— but not enough that you’ll remember it in the morning. 

This can happen hundreds of times a night, making it really tough to get a good night’s sleep. And when you’re not getting enough sleep, you may feel:

  • Tired
  • Irritable, and 
  • Have trouble concentrating during the day.

It can also lead to more serious health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease if left untreated. 


Signs You Have Sleep Apnea

man showing signs of sleep apnea - yawning at work

Are you always tired, even after a full night’s sleep? This is a sign that you might have sleep apnea.

Here are a few other things to look out for:

  • Loud snoring: If you or your partner notices that you snore loudly, especially if it’s followed by choking or gasping sounds, that could be a sign of sleep apnea.
  • Waking up to urinate: If you’re waking up multiple times a night to use the bathroom, that could be a sign that your sleep is interrupted by apnea episodes.
  • Morning headaches: If you’re waking up with a headache, that could be a sign that you’re not getting enough oxygen during the night.
  • Dry mouth: If you wake up with a dry mouth or throat, that could signal that you’re breathing through your mouth during the night.


Sleep Apnea in Dentistry: How Your Dentist Can Help You Sleep Better

man getting a sleep apnea mouth guard

You might be surprised to learn that there are several treatments for sleep apnea in dentistry.

Dentists can play a significant role in treating this condition. In fact, dentists work closely with primary care doctors to help manage sleep apnea in many patients. 

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Talk To Your Primary Care Doctor

First, a primary care doctor often diagnoses sleep apnea, typically through a sleep study.

Step 2: Talk To Your Dentist About Sleep Apnea Mouthpieces

With a diagnosis, you can go to your dentist and ask them to create a custom-fit oral appliance. These sleep apnea mouthguards help to keep your airways open during sleep by repositioning the jaw and tongue.

It’s similar to how a CPAP machine works but is more comfortable for some people. Many patients prefer mouthguards over the CPAP machine. It’s been reported that “as many as 46% to 83% of people do not continue with CPAP therapy due to discomfort or another reason.” 

Multiple studies have shown that these oral appliances are effective in treating mild to moderate sleep apnea and can be an excellent alternative for patients who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine.

One study in particular performed by Sleep Breath found that “oral appliances successfully “cure” mild-to-moderate sleep apnea in 40–50% of patients, and significantly improve it in additional 10–20%. 

Step 3: Ask Your Dentist About Exploring Positional Therapy

In addition to creating custom-fit oral appliances, dentists can also help treat sleep apnea by using positional therapy. 

Positional therapy is a non-invasive treatment method that helps to keep the airway open during sleep by encouraging the patient to sleep in a specific position.

The most common positional therapy is sleeping on your side, which can help keep the airway open and reduce the number of apnea episodes. Dentists can help you determine the best position to sleep in and may recommend using a special pillow or sleep aid to help you maintain that position throughout the night.

Dentists may also recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and sleeping on your side, which can help reduce sleep apnea symptoms.


So, in short, the dentist’s role in treating sleep apnea is to create and fit a custom oral appliance that will help keep the airway open while the patient is sleeping. It’s a great option for those who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine and can be a life-changing treatment for many people.



oral applications for sleep apnea - sleep apnea mouthpiece

Do dentists deal with sleep apnea?

Yes, dentists do deal with sleep apnea! 

Dentists can create custom-fit oral appliances (like mouth guards) that help to keep the airway open during sleep. Dentists can also work closely with primary care doctors and sleep specialists to help manage sleep apnea in many patients. 

What kind of dentist helps with sleep apnea?

A dentist specializing in dental sleep medicine would be the type of dentist who helps with sleep apnea. 

These dentists have completed additional training and education in sleep medicine and how it relates to dentistry. They have the knowledge, skills, and experience to create custom-fit oral appliances.

They also work closely with primary care doctors and sleep specialists to help manage sleep apnea in many patients.

What is a sleep apnea mouth guard?

A sleep apnea mouthpiece is an oral appliance dentists design to help keep the airway open during sleep. 

When you wear a sleep apnea mouth guard, it helps to prevent your tongue and jaw from falling back and blocking your airway. This can help reduce the number of apnea episodes you have during the night.

Your dentist will create a custom-fit mouthpiece to make it comfortable to wear. You can wear it all night, every night, and it’s easy to clean.

It’s important to note that sleep apnea mouthguards aren’t for everyone. It’s best to talk to a healthcare professional to determine if this treatment option is right for you. But a mouthguard can be a game-changer for many people with sleep apnea. 

How are sleep apnea and teeth grinding connected?

People with sleep apnea often experience teeth grinding due to the apnea episodes. The interrupted breathing, snoring, and choking during the night can cause a person to clench their jaw. This can lead to teeth grinding. Also, people with teeth grinding are more likely to have sleep apnea. 

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: Sleep apnea can cause teeth grinding, and teeth grinding can cause sleep apnea. So it’s important to address both conditions to get the best outcome.


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