If you suffer from teeth grinding or sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, teeth grinding or snoring, your doctor may suggest the use of an oral device to counter or ease the symptoms. It’s important to find a dentist who understands the use of oral appliance therapy because the key to their effectiveness is how they are used.
In most states, you must first get a diagnosis and a prescription for a sleep device from your doctor before you can be treated by a dentist for the disorder. Ask your current dentist if they make these devices or ask the physician who is diagnosis the sleep problem for recommendations.
Dental appliances used in treating snoring or teeth grinding include mouth guards. For sleep apnea, you may need a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. Insurance often covers the cost of the treatment because such disorders can lead to other lasting health problems.
The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) each provide a list of local and state dental societies on their web sites. Your local and state dental societies also may be listed in the telephone directory under "dentists" or "associations."
If you have to change dentists to get treatment, it’s a good idea to call or visit more than one dentist before selecting one with whom you feel you can build a good, long-term relationship.
What Should I Look for When Choosing a Dentist?
You and your dentist will be long-term oral health care partners. To find a dentist to meet your needs, consider asking the following questions as a starting point:
- What are the office hours? Are they convenient for you?
- Is the office easy to get to from work or home?
- Where was the dentist educated and trained?
- What's the dentist's approach to preventive dentistry?
- How often does the dentist attend conferences and continuing education workshops?
- What type of anesthesia is the dentist certified to give to help you relax and feel more comfortable during any necessary dental treatment?
- What arrangements are made for handling emergencies outside of office hours? (Most dentists make arrangements with a colleague or emergency referral service if they are unable to tend to emergencies.)
- Is information provided about all fees and payment plans before treatment? If you are comparison shopping, ask for estimates on some common procedures such as full-mouth X-rays, oral exams and cleanings, and filling cavities.
- Does the dentist participate in your dental health plan?
- What is the dentist's office policy on missed appointments?
If visiting in person:
- Does the office appear to be clean, neat, and orderly?
- Is the dental staff helpful and willing to answer your questions?
- Do you observe the dentist and staff wearing gloves and other protective gear during actual patient treatment?
Dentists for Special Needs
The ADA suggests the following tips for those with special needs who need a dentist:
- Inform the dentist about your special health or financial conditions.
- Ask if the dentist has training and/or experience in treating patients with your specific condition.
- Ask if the dentist has an interest in treating patients with your specific condition.
- Find out if the dentist participates in your dental insurance program.
Charitable and Low-Cost Dental Care
Because dental assistance programs vary from state to state, contact your state dental society to find out if there are programs in your area. Dental school clinics are another source of lower-cost dental care. A list of dental school clinics is provided by the ADA.
Learn more about teeth grinding.