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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The Role Of The Dental Hygienist In Screening Patients For Sleep Apnea

By: Setina Evans RDH

June 23, 2020


From routine dental cleanings to educating the patients , the Dental Hygienist plays a crucial role in preventive dentistry through the interaction with patients.

As such, the Dental Hygienist may be the first to recognize a patient that might be suffering from sleep apnea. The Dental Hygienists offer recommendations based on a patient’s individual needs, which might include advice on sleep.

The Role of the Dental Hygienist in Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Snoring are breathing disorders that occur during sleep as a result of narrowing or total closure of the airway. Snoring is a sound or noise created by the partial closure of the airway.

In some cases snoring may be indicative of a more serious disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious condition where the airway totally closes many times during the night and can significantly reduce oxygen levels in the body resulting in disrupted sleep causing excessive daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that often requires long-term management. Dentists and Dental hygienists have become more involved in the treatment of sleep apnea over the last 10 years .

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed because most people who suffer from this condition don’t even realize they have it. Since patients visit their dentist more often than they visit their doctor, a Dental Hygienist plays a critical role in screening and caring for patients with sleep breathing disorders.

A Dental Hygienist who has received proper education and training about sleep apnea, will not ignore the signs and symptoms of this potentially deadly condition.

Some initial screenings may reveal that patients might snore, feel tired all the time, or knew someone who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, but never sought treatment.