Close links between oral health and sleep quality highlighted by ADA

6 February 2019

In an appearance before the Committee into Sleep Health Awareness in Australia in Melbourne today, the ADA, presented by Deputy CEO Eithne Irving and Dr Andrew Gikas, Past President of the ADA Victorian branch and recently appointed Board member and Conference Chair of the Australasian Sleep Association, highlighted a range of oral health issues that impact on quality sleep and the impact of poor sleep on oral health. 

Speaking to the submission lodged by the Association last October, the ADA particularly raised two key issues which they asked the Committee to take into consideration. 

The first concerns the lack of regulation around the supply of mandibular advancement devices which are aimed at controlling snoring. Readily available over the counter or online, these standard devices, which aim to move the lower jaw forward and by doing so help the soft tissues at the back of the throat to remain forward, are adapted by the wearer by placing them in hot water which softens the material before the wearer places it in their mouth.  

Not only may these devices, assuming they act as advertised, be masking a potentially life-threatening condition such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, they may in fact affect the structure of the teeth and jaw and change the oral function of the wearer. 

Acting in a way similar to the type of cheap mouthguards available on the market, these devices are less effective than a professionally-made counterparts, and the ADA argued that these off-the-shelf versions should be reclassified as medical devices, making them subject to the same regulatory processes under the auspices of the Therapeutic Goods Administration as any other medical device. They would then only be available through the appropriate health practitioner, in this case a dentist. 

The ADA also highlighted the additional costs being incurred through Medicare due to that fact that patients are unable to receive a Medicare rebate if they are referred to a sleep physician directly by a dentist.   

This administrative oversight means that patients must first go back to the GP to get an eligible referral to a physician, a less than optimal use of taxpayer’s money that acts as a disincentive for patients to have the appropriate treatment for their condition.