Sleep apnea spotlight: the connection between sleep health, dental health and physical therapy

Published - Sep 21, 2021

Sleep apnea spotlight: the connection between sleep health, dental health and physical therapy

Content provided by Amy Thompson, DDS of Elite Sleep

Clinically reviewed by Darren Crout, PTA, TPI Cert.

According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million adults in the United States are afflicted by some form of a sleep disorder. As of 2014, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that the prevalence of one such sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, is rising amongst Americans with at least 25 million people suffering from this condition.

Dr. Amy Thompson of Elite Sleep in Lake Stevens, Wash. states that sleep apnea is likely the most common respiratory disorder; it is linked with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, weight gain, Alzheimer’s disease, automotive accidents and erectile dysfunction — the list goes on and on. Scientists are now discovering that lack of sleep may affect every system in the human body and be related to nearly all ailments and diseases, including COVID-19. Consequently, addressing sleep issues is one of the most beneficial things that can be done to benefit health from all angles.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in one’s airway (according to the Mayo Clinic, most often by the throat muscles) while sleeping. This blockage can significantly decrease oxygen levels and directly result in chronic pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues, headaches and many other unpleasant occurrences. Dentists can help to correct the blockage caused by obstructive sleep apnea by creating custom-fit oral appliances which are covered by insurance. These appliances hold one’s lower jaw in place at night so that it does not fall back into the throat, consequently blocking one’s airway. The devices are small, painless, fit like a night guard and can be easily worn while talking.

Unfortunately, sleep apnea goes undiagnosed in the majority of cases — so much so that the American Dental Association now requires dentists to screen all patients (even kids) for sleep apnea, as they do for oral cancer. Be sure to ask your dentist for a sleep apnea screening at your next visit.

Physical therapists can also play a valuable role in the management of patients with sleep disorders by providing guidance regarding exercise programs that can promote sleep regulation; making recommendations for safe and comfortable body positioning in bed; addressing underlying issues that may be inhibiting a restful sleep; and making appropriate referrals to other care providers when necessary, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.

Though dentistry and physical therapy may not be the first care domains that come to mind in relation to sleep health, providers from each of these settings can greatly contribute to ensuring that individuals suffering from sleep-related ailments receive proper diagnosis, treatment and management strategies.

Visit ELITESLEEPNW.COM to learn more about the services provided by Dr. Thompson her team at Elite Sleep, or call 425.377.9988 to schedule your sleep consultation today.

Click here to request an appointment with an IRG therapist — Washington is a direct access state that allows patients to self-refer to physical therapy. Call 425.316.8046 to learn more about starting the journey back to your best self.