Orthodontic Treatment & Disorders

How Orthodontists Treat Sleep Apnea

When your physician believes that your sleep apnea can be helped by repositioning the teeth or jaws, they will refer you to a qualified orthodontist.
By myOrthos
November 09, 2022

Sleep apnea is a disrupting sleep disorder that can be quite serious. People with sleep apnea often experience breathing interruptions several times during the night.

Usually, a breathing stoppage can be a few seconds or as long as several minutes. Loud snoring can be disruptive for bedmates and roommates as well.

The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

While not everybody that snores has sleep apnea, loud snoring is a common symptom.

Frequent sleep interruptions often cause fatigue for people with the disorder, and as such, they wake up in the morning feeling tired because they didn't get sufficient sleep.

Sleep apnea is not often fatal, but it can increase the risk of various serious illnesses such as heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, depression, and heart failure.

Keep in mind any related heart issues are familiar to people already predisposed. Sleep apnea is not a cause of cardiovascular issues. It only makes it more severe for people that are predisposed.

Can my orthodontist treat my sleep apnea?

Even though the leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea is muscle-related, an orthodontic issue can also be a culprit. Throat muscles may have nothing to do with the blocked airway and instead may be from an orthodontic problem that includes the following:

  • Dental arch issue
  • Tooth misalignment
  • Jaw misalignment

When your doctor suspects the cause of the sleep disorder is orthodontics, they will refer you to an orthodontist.

Orthodontists do not diagnose sleep apnea but are only referred to by the physician to manage it. Your orthodontist should be qualified to give you an obstructive sleep apnea screening.

How do orthodontists treat sleep apnea?

When your physician believes that your sleep apnea can be helped by repositioning the teeth or jaws, they will refer you to a qualified orthodontist for sleep apnea treatment.

An AAO orthodontist is the most qualified person to provide this treatment. But what does the treatment entail?

If necessary, the orthodontist recommends aligners like braces, Invisalign, or other dental appliances to hold the jaw in a favorable position at night. The aligners gradually move the teeth into correct positions and out of the airway. Unlike braces, aligners have a less noticeable look.

Your orthodontist may also use a mandibular advancement splint or a rapid palate expander. The custom-fit brace changes the jaw's alignment and widens the airway by slightly moving the lower jaw downward and forward when the person is asleep. This reduces the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

A rapid palate expander, on the other hand, treats the sleep condition in children. The expander is bonded or cemented onto the upper molars to widen the space in the upper jaw.



Is seeing a sleep apnea orthodontist a better alternative to a CPAP machine?

A sleep apnea orthodontist may deem a dental appliance the most appropriate sleep apnea treatment. In this case, the dental device will be substantially better than a CPAP machine. Braces, aligners, Invisalign, and a mandibular advancement splints are quieter, smaller, and less obtrusive for patients.

Sometimes, the orthodontic devices may need to be coupled with a CPAP machine. In some cases, the orthodontic devices may eventually eliminate the need for the CPAP machine. 

Find a myOrthos Partner Location Today

Sleep apnea can be a serious condition that increases the risk of other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular illnesses. Your doctor may recommend you to a sleep apnea orthodontist when they suspect the sleep disorder comes from the misaligned jaw or teeth. Find a myOrthos partner location near you to learn more about orthodontic sleep apnea treatments.