Divide between dentistry and medicine harms Australians’ health, including those with sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea affects 1.3 million Australians, including one in four men above the age of 40.

Its symptoms, like excessive sleepiness, headaches, high blood pressure and mood changes, have a significant impact on daily life.

A simple dental device could help — but, as it stands, only a handful of those affected are offered it.

Up to 90 per cent of those with sleep apnoea are prescribed CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy, but Flinders University sleep expert Danny Eckert says a mouthguard, a less invasive option, has similar health benefits.

“Yet … only a minority are ever prescribed it,” Professor Eckert tells ABC RN’s Saturday Extra.

A woman is shown using a CPAP machine for obstructive sleep apnoea. Her male partner sleeps beside her.

Up to 90 per cent of those with sleep apnoea will be offered CPAP therapy. (Getty: No Limit Pictures)

This raises the obvious question: why?

The answer lies in the historical divide between medicine and dentistry, and a lack of understanding about the relationship between general and oral health.

‘The mouth is part of the body’

A mouthguard (or oral splint) must be inserted by a dental professional, whereas a CPAP machine can be prescribed by a general practitioner or sleep physician.

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