Based on the number of emails I weekly receive advertising courses for dentists to learn how to make and provide oral appliances for snoring and sleep apnea I can only assume that an increasing number of adults are receiving these devices. Though these devices can provide great benefit socially (allowing bed partners to sleep in the same room) and medically by reducing the risk of heart related problems, once inserted these devices must be monitored.
Why You Should Always Monitor Oral Appliances
- Is the oral appliance doing what it is intended to do? For the simple snoring patient the answer is easy. For the apnea patient, the answer is a guess unless a follow up sleep study (home test or laboratory) is done. Just the cessation or reduction of snoring may not mean that the apnea condition has been adequately addressed. The dentist who puts in the device must direct the follow up process.
- These appliances can cause tooth shift, opening spaces between teeth leading to food traps, and lead to movement of front teeth that were straightened with braces. These problems can be eliminated or minimized with follow-up visits.
- In approximately 15 percent of patients that wear these appliances over one year, there is a good chance that a bite change will occur not allowing the back teeth to hit as they once did. Heavy contacts are put on the front teeth with likely consequences such as chipping and reduced mobility. Follow-up visits can not only prevent this from happening but if noticed, modifications can be made with regard to how often the appliance is worn and where the position is set.
- In some people these appliances can lead to jaw problems such as muscle or joint pain, joint noises, and even limitations in jaw motion and functional abilities. Since the jaw is an orthopedic system, healing will then be dependent on making appropriate changes, which can only be determined by follow-up visits.
The Take Home Message About Monitoring Oral Appliances
If your dentist is not insisting on follow-up visits, speak up and get back on his or her schedule. Also, these appliances do not last forever! Replacement is usually necessary after 3 -5 years based on normal wear and tear.
Dr. Donald Tanenbaum is a specialist with offices in New York City and Long Island, NY. He is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat facial pain associated with jaw problems, TMJ, referred pain, nerve pain, and migraines. Find out more at www.tanenbaumtmj.com.