Most people consider sleep disorders a medical problem, and indeed medical doctors usually make the diagnoses. However, dentists can alert patients and their physicians to the potential presence of a sleep disorder based on observations made during routine oral exams. Your dentist will look for heavy bruxism, enamel erosion due to reflux, and difficulty keeping an airway opened when reclining in the dental chair, among other symptoms. Your dentist can make a lifesaving referral to a sleep physician who may prescribe a CPAP device for keeping the airways open during sleep.
According to the Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry (Dec. 2016, Volume 37, Number 10) when used properly the CPAP works well. However, only 40% to 50 % can tolerate using it as they sleep. As an alternative, your dentist can make an alternative, more comfortable oral appliance that have proven to be just as effective as a CPAP device. The dental appliance fits more like a retainer, a much more simple approach.
If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder discuss your symptoms with both your physician and dentist as soon as possible. It could save your life!