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Sleep Patterns and Oral Health, Is There a Connection?

Sterling Ridge Cosmetic and Family Dentistry’s Dr. Erica Cummings Reveals a Root Cause of Many Oral Health Issues in Children and Adults

joyofthemomentphotography Dr Erica Cummings Sterling Ridge Cosmetic
  Family Dentistry Z edit

By
Melissa Gautier
| Photos by Karina Eremina of Joy of the Moment
Photography

Determining the origin of a
patient’s dental and health issues involves a multi-faceted
approach.
At Sterling Ridge Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, Dr.
Erica Cummings leaves no stone unturned. She is dedicated to finding answers
by nudging the boundaries of general dentistry. Her quest to find the true
source of patients’ dental issues lies in her desire to help them breathe
easier, alleviate symptoms affecting their sleep, and achieve optimal
health.

Even though Dr. Cummings was voted by Living
readers as Best Family Dentist in The Woodlands this year, she is passionate
about many aspects of dentistry. She helps patients of all ages, particularly
in cosmetic dentistry and sleep dentistry. Her focus on cosmetic dentistry
for aesthetic purposes as well as correcting misaligned arches for improved
function goes hand-in-hand with sleep dentistry.

What is
Sleep Dentistry?

Dental sleep medicine is an area of dental
practice focused on examination and patient interviewing to uncover signs and
symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing including snoring and obstructive
sleep apnea. Doctors, sleep specialists, and dentists frequently work
together to improve sleep disorders and snoring symptoms. By collaborating
with physicians and specialists, Dr. Cummings can help minimize patients’
sleep symptoms with custom oral appliances tailored to their needs. But
before she does that, there’s a discovery process to determine the cause of
their symptoms and the best method for helping them.

joyofthemomentphotography Dr Erica Cummings Sterling Ridge Cosmetic
  Family Dentistry Z edit

Searching
for Clues and Finding Answers

As of 2017, the American Dental Association
requires all dentists to screen their patients for sleep-disordered
breathing. Healthy sleep bathes and cleanses the brain, yet many of us fall
short of a peaceful slumber. Dr. Cummings relies more on symptoms and current
health conditions when snoring and sleep problems are in question. During a
dental exam, Dr. Cummings takes note of adult patients having worn and tipped
teeth, scalloped tongues, narrow nostrils, or high body mass index. She
inquires further about other health issues they may suffer from.
Hypertension, diabetes, migraines, acid reflux, and high blood pressure are
of particular importance as these comorbidities are often present in patients
with snoring and sleep apnea.

Left untreated, sleep disorders, sleep apnea,
and chronic snoring can lead to serious health problems. When symptoms and
risk factors are present, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale questionnaire is
another tool. An at-home sleep test can be used by the patient in their own
comfortable surroundings. Results are received from a board certified sleep
physician, along with a prescription for an oral sleep appliance when deemed
appropriate.

Chronic snoring or waking up gasping for air
and/or choking are classic symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This
happens when tissue in the back of the throat collapses, blocking the airway
and reducing airflow to vital tissues while sleeping. “I make customized oral
sleep appliances to support the mandible and hold the position of the tongue
and surrounding structures,” she says. This maintains a more stable airway,
alleviating snoring and struggled breathing.

Child
Screenings During Exams

Children are screened during their hygiene
exams, interviewing the child and their parents about symptoms related to
developmental and dental issues. Dr. Cummings looks for clues including arch
size, lip posture, tongue tie, swallow patterns, dark circles under the eyes,
large tonsils, and evidence of teeth grinding. Other symptoms may include
misdiagnosed ADHD from lack of sleep, bed wetting, thumb sucking, mouth
breathing, and picky eating habits (preferring only soft, easy-to-manage
foods).

“Years of teeth misalignment will lead to
permanent damage,” Dr. Cummings says. “I work in conjunction with ENTs,
myotherapists, orthodontists, and surgeons to guide proper bone growth and
alignment in young children.” For better sleep and oral posture in pediatric
patients, oral appliances, expanders, and additional growth guidance devices
can be used to create more tongue and airway space for nose breathing and for
teeth to fit together harmoniously.

Friendly
and Welcoming Environment

Dr. Cummings and her team want patients to
feel safe and welcome like family. A stress-free atmosphere has been created
with furnished amenities patients appreciate. Relaxing heat and massage
chairs, blankets, and an overhead TV during treatment are offered.
Additionally, Dr. Cummings offers nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for those who
are apprehensive about being in the dental chair.

Expertise
and Credentials

Erica K. Cummings, DDS, MAGD, D-ABDSM is
highly trained in general and cosmetic dentistry and is board certified with
the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM). She’s helped many people
with health and sleep issues relating to dentistry.

Her dental studies began by earning an
undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University, followed by her
dental surgery doctorate in 2006 at the University of Texas Dental Branch in
Houston. She completed her one-year general residency at St. Luke’s Hospital
in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, followed by two years at a cosmetic practice and
a pediatric dental practice. These experiences facilitated her methods for
treating both children and adults.

After spending years of intense study and
hands-on experience in sleep dentistry, she obtained the prestigious
Mastership Award from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). It is the
highest and most respected designation in the AGD. Masters are leaders in
dentistry who have made a commitment to uphold the highest professional
standards and ideals of the AGD. Dr. Cummings is currently pursuing
accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
(AACD).

Giving back through community service has
always been one of Dr. Cummings’ passions. Highlights of her dedicated
service to others include participating in Give Kids a Smile Day, Dentistry
from the Heart, numerous local sponsorships, and traveling to Guatemala to
provide dentistry for the indigenous Mayans.

To learn more about how Dr. Cummings could
help you and your family through cosmetic and sleep dentistry, please visit
their website or call their office for details.

  • General
    dentistry
  • Sleep
    apnea and snoring
  • Crowns
  • Fillings
  • Dental
    implant restoration
  • Full mouth
    reconstruction
  • Teeth
    whitening

CONTACT

9955
Woodlands Parkway, Suite B

The Woodlands, Texas 77382

(281) 298-2503

SterlingRidgeDentistry.com


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