Frequently Asked Questions
Many patients have heard of sleep apnea, but few fully understand what it is, let alone the fact that a dentist can help them treat it. That’s why, on this page, we’ve included answers to some of the most common questions our patients ask us every day. Here, we’ll address subjects like the causes of sleep apnea, risk factors, how to get a diagnosis, and treatment options. If you still have questions after reading this page, please be sure to call and ask!
Does snoring always mean a person has sleep apnea?
Snoring occurs when the soft tissues in your throat and mouth are vibrated by passing air, and while loud, chronic snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea, it is not a definitive one. Sleep apnea is present only if a person stops breathing for short periods of time throughout the night. However, it is still advised that someone who frequently snores consult their doctor as it may be an indicator of another underlying issue, such as sleep disordered breathing.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where a person temporary stops breathing for short periods of time through the night. This can be caused by the soft tissues in the mouth and throat collapsing into and blocking the airway (obstructive sleep apnea or OSA) or the brain not sending the body the signal to breathe during sleep (central sleep apnea or CSA.) OSA is much more common, and in some rare cases, a patient may suffer from both types at the same time.
How do I know if I have sleep apnea?
Patients with sleep apnea typically feel very exhausted during the day despite sleeping throughout the night, or they may wake up during the night sweating or gasping for breath. Usually, it is a bed partner who first notices the main symptom of sleep apnea—breathing cessations. However, the only way to truly know if you have sleep apnea is to have a sleep study performed by a doctor. If you believe you may have sleep apnea, a good place to start is to take our STOP-BANG assessment, which will give us information as to your risk of sleep apnea. After evaluating your results, we’ll call you within 24 hours and let you know what to do next.
I’ve already been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Do I have to visit a sleep dentist?
You don’t have to, but if you haven’t yet gotten treatment or are not getting complete relief with a CPAP machine, your physician may suggest that you see a sleep dentist, like Dr. Striebel, in order to determine if you are a viable candidate for oral appliance therapy. If you are, he can then immediately begin planning your treatment.
Is an oral appliance better than a CPAP machine?
This depends entirely on the patient. CPAP therapy is still the most often prescribed treatment for sleep apnea patients, but many find the machine to be too bulky and noisy to actually sleep with it. For these patients and those who cannot be treated with a CPAP machine, oral appliance therapy may be the better approach. Conversely, oral appliance therapy would NOT be the right treatment for a patient suffering from severe sleep apnea. In the end, it’s up to you and your doctor to determine which treatment is best for you.
Will my insurance cover oral appliance therapy?
In most cases, both medical insurance and Medicare can be used to partially or completely cover sleep apnea treatment and diagnosis. Our friendly team can help you determine and use your benefits in order to maximize your coverage.