Treating sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy

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Dr. Douglas Desatnik, of the Northeast Ohio Center for Dental Sleep Medicine, is determined to help Northeast Ohioans rest a little easier. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Ken McEntee

Most dentists will tell you they relish the ability to improve people’s lives by fixing teeth and improving smiles. Douglas Desatnik, DDS, says he wants to do more.

That’s one reason why he opened the Northeast Ohio Center for Dental Sleep Medicine.

“Treating patients who have obstructive sleep apnea is an opportunity to literally save lives and not just change them,” Dr. Desatnik explains.

Sleep apnea, often associated with snoring, is a condition that occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow.

The condition leads to serious complications such as heart attacks and strokes and is oftentimes the underlying cause behind other life-threatening diseases and co-morbidities, Dr. Desatnik says.

“Admittedly, a Positive Air Pressure devise, such as CPAP, which usually consists of a mask worn during sleep, is the best treatment for sleep apnea,” he says.

“But because these devises can be uncomfortable or cumbersome, people oftentimes feel claustrophobic when wearing them. Some people cannot tolerate or simply elect to not use them, and their apnea goes untreated, which is dangerous.”

“Oral Appliance Therapy is a minimally invasive alternative treatment option for people who are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, people who cannot tolerate the mask and people who decline potential surgical treatment options,” he continues.

An oral appliance for obstructive sleep apnea is a custom-fit device worn inside the mouth during sleep, similar to an orthodontic retainer or a mouth guard typically worn for tooth grinding. The appliance is designed to reposition the lower jaw to prevent the collapse of the airway.

“I’m not here to diagnose sleep apnea,” Dr. Desatnik says.

“Only a physician can do that. But if you have been diagnosed, and you can’t or won’t wear a PAP mask, I may be able to help you to breathe normally during sleep to avoid life-threatening conditions as a result of untreated disease.”

During your visit, Dr. Desatnik will perform a thorough evaluation of your mouth and airway. A digital scan will take precise measurements with which a customized appliance can be fabricated. Once the patient begins to wear the appliance, it can be gradually adjusted to the optimum jaw position to prevent obstructive sleep apnea from happening. The appliance, he says, may take a week or two to get used to, but it is not painful or uncomfortable for most patients.

“We work as a team with our patients and their physicians to treat the problem,” Dr. Desatnik assures.

“Most of our referrals come from physicians and once a patient is fit with an appliance and we confirm treatment success, we send them back to their doctor for follow up.”

Other dentists might offer oral appliance therapy as another part of their general practice, he says, but the Northeast Ohio Center for Dental Sleep Medicine is the only practice he knows of which is solely dedicated to the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea with appliance therapy in the Northeast Ohio area.

There are only a few dentists in Northeast Ohio who are officially acknowledged by the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and Dr. Desatnik has been recognized as an AADSM Qualified Dentist.

“Some people are absolutely miserable when they come in for the first time,” he shares.

“They aren’t getting proper sleep and they are tired of feeling exhausted all of the time. Oftentimes they have tried and failed with CPAP. After they have been successfully treated with an oral appliance, their lives are dramatically changed.”

To find out if an oral appliance can help you sleep better at night, you can schedule an evaluation with Dr. Desatnik by calling 216-831-1170. You can learn more at The Northeast Ohio Center for Dental Sleep Medicine is located at 22901 Millcreek Blvd., Suite 140, in Beachwood.