Does your bed partner complain about your snoring? Are you unusually sleepy during the day and don’t know why? These are two of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep related breathing disorder that can cause you to stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times each night.

Only a physician can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. A dentist do not diagnose OSA. However, a dentist may see patients who they suspect may be at risk and will refer them to their family physicians for further diagnostic followup.

The most effective treatment for mild or moderate sleep apnea, says The Canadian Lung Association, is continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP). With CPAP you wear a special mask attached to a CPAP machine. A steady stream of air is blown through the mask, into your nose and down your throat. The pressure helps keep your airways open so you can breathe properly all night. Other treatments for mild sleep apnea include lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives and sleeping on your side, not your back.   Your doctor may also recommend that you use a dental (or an oral appliance) that fits over your teeth and prevents your tongue and jaw from blocking your airway. In comparison to CPAP devices, these are sometimes regarded as a convenient, silent and more bed partner-friendly choice says Dr. Alan Lowe, Professor and Chair of the Divison of Orthodontics, University of Bristish Columbia’s Faculty of Dentistry.   A cautionary note: Some patients who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea may be curious about ordering prefabricated devices over the internet. “Think twice!”. “You may end up with jaw pain or other problems. That could be a significant and serious.”