Because dental treatment of sleep disorders involves alterations in jaw position during sleep, an understanding of jaw function, especially the potential for problems that can develop with the temporomandibular joints, is essential. This has been the focus of Dr. Higdon’s practice for over 30 years.
• Our Need for Restorative Sleep
• Sleep Requirements and Disease Risk
• What Are Sleep Disorders?
• Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)
• Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
• Dental Treatment for Sleep Disordered Breathing — UARS & OSA
Dr. Higdon’s Experience and Unique Perspective
Although most patients with UARS or OSA tolerate OAT well, there are very real potential problems that can develop with the use of the oral appliance. Although these problems do not occur frequently, they may include the development of pain in the jaw joints and/or jaw muscles, and sometimes may cause a change in the bite as a result of wearing the oral appliance. These conditions are broadly referred to as “TMJ” or temporomandibular disorders (TMDs).
Because of the potential for these problems to develop, any patient who is being considered for OAT should be carefully screened for these potential problems. Because most dentists who provide OAT have not been trained in how to thoroughly screen patients for these conditions, they often have little understanding of how to identify them before OAT is undertaken or how to treat them, should they develop. For more on TMD screening, see “Screening for TMD in Dental Practice”
Dr. Higdon’s practice, for over 30 years, has been specifically focused on providing treatment for temporomandibular disorders, as well as sleep disordered breathing problems, such as UARS and OSA. Patients with TMD and sleep disorders are frequently referred to him by other dentists and sleep physicians. He is widely recognized in the community for his unique understanding of these conditions. For any patient who is referred for OAT, as a part of the initial evaluation and prior to initiating treatment, Dr. Higdon will do a thorough screening for any potential for the patient to develop a TMD. He will then discuss the implications of this risk with the patient before undertaking OAT for the sleep disorder. If the risk of a TMD is identified, this may need to be treated before OAT treatment for the sleep disorder can be considered.