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For Sleep Disorders… See Your Dentist

It seems like a good night’s sleep is getting harder to come by in these busy and stress-filled times. Some people toss and turn due to churning thoughts. Others are awakened by their own snoring or a feeling of not getting enough oxygen. The latter is a condition called sleep apnea, and it affects up to 18 million Americans, which is equivalent to approximately one in fifteen people.

“Apnea” comes from a Greek word that means “wanting breath.” That is precisely what sleep apnea is. It is when the airway in the throat relaxes so much that air has difficulty entering the lungs. This will sound like heavy snoring but is actually much more dangerous that merely snoring. Sleep apnea can be life threatening if undiagnosed or untreated.  It can also cause higher risk during the waking hours—sleepless nights have been known to cause poor concentration. This can lead to accidents in traffic, at the workplace, or at home. One statistic suggests that sleep apnea sufferers are six times more likely to be in a car accident. Children can also be affected by sleep apnea and are more likely to have learning difficulties, behavioral, and attention problems. So you can see, sleep apnea does not discriminate.

Previously, sleep apnea treatment fell under the domain of MDs, neurologists, or pulmonologists. But now, dentists are leading the way to helping patients with this frightening disorder. Dentists may have an advantage in treating this condition because we already understand how occlusion (the bite) and the position of the jaw affect a person’s airway. Dentists are bringing a new therapeutic perspective which can be treated in the oral cavity.

Dentists are the key to early diagnosis. We can diagnose the problem earlier and treat it in a less costly manner than traditional methods. Dentistry has been extending into the area of respiratory diseases, but unfortunately, hospitals or family practitioners rarely have a dentist on staff.

Sleep apnea therapy is a highly specialized area and I am excited to be contributing to this new frontier of dentistry. Once I diagnose a sleep apnea case, there are several treatment options available. Sometimes lifestyle changes are required. Other times, the use of a special machine at night can keep the airway open. There are also simple dental appliances the patient can wear in their mouth at night. My team and I custom make mouthpieces for each patient who requires it.

You may be wondering if you have sleep apnea. What should you look for? The symptoms vary widely, but here are some things to look for:

•       Loud snoring

•       Constant fatigue, trouble concentrating and staying awake

•       Chronic headaches, especially upon waking

•       Waking with a choking sensation

•       Excessive sweating at night

•       Dry mouth upon waking

•       Depression

•       Heartburn

•       Increased sexual dysfunction

•       Frequent trips to the bathroom at night

•       Restless sleep, tossing and turning

•       Rapid weight gain

If you feel you may have this disease, it is important to get a diagnosis right away. If left untreated, it increases your risk of more serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, or high blood pressure. As a dentist, I now have the opportunity to help catch more sleep apnea cases and bring relief to my patients and allow them to get the peaceful night’s rest we all deserve. Call me today to take the first step towards a great night’s sleep at 847-742-4214. See more about sleep disorder dentistry here: