Sleep is supposed to be one of the healthiest and restorative activities one can partake in, an essential function required daily to feel renewed and energized for the coming day. But when snoring and sleep apnea enter the picture, sleep is distorted from a peaceful activity into an internal struggle of survival. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition involving the cessation or significant reduction in airflow during sleep due to a blockage or obstruction of the airway. Living with untreated OSA can greatly impact a person’s health and energy, decreasing their quality of life and even their lifespan. This is why many dentists have expanded into dental sleep medicine.

Dental Sleep Medicine

Dental Sleep Medicine is the dental treatment and management of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) through the use of oral appliance therapy (OAT). Qualified dentists work together with physicians to provide the best quality of care for obstructive sleep apnea patients.

Sleep Apnea and CPAP

Over 18 million people in the U.S. alone have obstructive sleep apnea. Traditionally, after a diagnosis from a sleep physician, the patient would be recommended to wear a CPAP machine at night,

For the majority of patients, CPAP treatment works great and is tolerated by the patient, however many struggle to wear their CPAP machine every night, and consequently their sleep apnea will continue to cause havoc on their body and mind.

The Dental Sleep Medicine Process

These failed CPAP patients and other diagnosed OSA sufferers may opt to seek treatment from a qualified dentist who will schedule a consultation to determine if the patient is a candidate for oral appliance therapy. If approved, the dentist will perform an exam which includes taking an impression of the patient’s upper and lower teeth. The mold will then be sent to a dental lab where it will be fabricated into a custom-fitted oral device that slightly protrudes the lower jaw when worn, allowing a freeflow of air through the airway at night.

The dentist will schedule several follow-ups to adjust the appliance to find the optimum protrusion of the lower jaw, reducing the amount of breathing obstruction as much as possible and allowing the patient to receive a continuous flow of oxygen to feel refreshed each morning.

The process of seeing a qualified dentist for obstructive sleep apnea treatment is non-invasive and painless. Experienced dental practices make their patients feel very comfortable, review expectations, and can even help them get the oral appliance treatment covered by medical insurance.

Dental Sleep Oral Appliance Impression

Dental Sleep Medicine Billing

A great benefit of oral appliance therapy with a custom-fitted device is that is typically covered under medical insurance plans, not dental insurance.

Dental practices that treat obstructive sleep apnea usually help their patients receive medical insurance reimbursement through dental sleep medicine billing.

The dentist can bill for the custom oral appliance, as well as the sleep apnea-related exam, and radiographs performed.

Additionally, Medicare covers oral appliance therapy for obstructive sleep apnea, and dentists who are approved DME suppliers can treat Medicare obstructive sleep apnea patients and receive Medicare reimbursement.


By Rose Nierman, RDH