Do you know someone who suffers from loud snoring, daytime fatigue or poor sleep quality? These can all be symptoms of sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that often leads to cardiovascular,metabolic diseases and, in rare cases, death. Since most people visit their dentist more often than their medical doctor, I have taken many courses over my career to educate myself on how I can help patients with sleep apnea or snoring problems.
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the upper airway relax during sleep and pinch off the airway. Breathing may pause until reflexes kick in and the person starts breathing again. Those with sleep apnea may experience and recognize the symptoms or it may just be someone sleeping in the same room that notices breathing pauses,choking during sleep or loud snoring. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult their medical doctor, but I can also help identify and treat this condition.
Health risks of sleep apnea include many systemic issues, including hypertension, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. These risks can be a symptom of sleep apnea or be exacerbated by the lack of oxygen associated with sleep apnea. Obesity can also be a cause or symptom of sleep apnea. Only 5-percent of normal weight individuals suffer from sleep apnea, but it affects over 20-percent of obese people. Individuals who accumulate extra weight in the neck, tongue and upper belly are especially vulnerable to sleep apnea. Regardless of the causes or health risks of sleep apnea, a consultation with at my office can begin the path to overall improved health.
After discussing your symptoms at my office, I can prescribe a convenient at-home sleep test can usually be prescribed. The results of the at-home sleep test are analyzed by sleep apnea specialists. If a patient is diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, I provide a referral to their medical doctor for CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)evaluation. If a patient is determined to have mild sleep apnea or just snoring, I can fabricate an oral appliance to treat these conditions. The oral appliance I use to treat patients fits like retainers on the upper and lower teeth and have bands that gently move the lower jaw forward, opening the airway during sleep. This process at my office involves two twenty-minute appointments and medical insurance may help pay for the device, depending on the diagnosis.
Regular use of CPAP or an oral appliance has been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower the risk for heart attack and stroke, lower blood glucose, increase wakefulness during the day and improve overall quality of life. Sleep apnea patients can also reduce the impact of this disease by managing their weight through diet and exercise. Patients with the symptoms detailed above may have a range from severe sleep apnea to just an annoying snoring problem. If you or anyone you know has experienced these symptoms, please contact my office for a free consultation. Regardless of the eventual diagnosis, dentists can play an important role in helping patients identify their concerns and treat their overall health.
Cheers to dental health,
Dr. Cliff Moore