Early this year, I completed some advanced educational courses on treating snoring and sleep apnea with mandibular advancement devices. As we kick off this blog, I’d love to share with you some of the new things our office is doing to better serve our patients and the new ways we can improve your overall health.
Sleep apnea is a sleep-breathing disorder where the tissues at the base of the tongue, soft palate and pharynx collapse during sleep causing narrowing or complete closure of the airway. Some of the signs that you may have obstructive sleep apnea are snoring, a pause in breathing while sleeping that results in waking to catch your breath, excessive daytime sleepiness, headaches in the morning, or cognitive/memory changes that can’t be accounted for by another condition.
Some of the dental signs that you may have sleep apnea are indentations on the side of your tongue, grinding your teeth at night, large tonsils, crowded teeth, high tongue posture or a high palate. If you stick out your tongue, can you see your throat in the mirror? If not, your tongue is at a higher risk of collapse and obstruction of your airway. Sleep apnea can cause many other symptoms as well and can contribute to depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure as well as many other dangerous conditions.
Which Makes Sense!
If you’re woken consistently through the night because of constricted breathing, you will not be getting adequate amounts of deep sleep and REM sleep that are so restorative to our mind and body. The ramifications to your systemic health are widespread.
Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that up to 80-90% of diabetics also have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The prevelance of OSA in patients whose blood pressure is poorly controlled is astonishingly high. Up to 90% of males struggling to gain control of their blood pressure may have OSA as well. And 65% of patients who have had a stroke also have a sleep breathing disorder.
Dangerously Low Oxygen Levels?
A normal and healthy oxygen saturation is around 95-100%. If an anesthesiologist is monitoring a patient during a surgery, he/she gets concerned when the patient’s oxygen saturation drops below 93%. Some patients with sleep apnea have drops in oxygen saturation below 80%!
32% of patients with atrial fibrillation (a-fib) also have OSA. If a patient has atrial fibrillation that is resistant to therapy, the patient has an 87% chance of also having OSA! For this reason, patients with atrial fibrillation are routinely tested for OSA before therapy or before repeating a failed cardioversion. (More about A-Fib and OSA.)
Be Informed: Know Symptoms of Sleep Breathing Disorders
If you notice that you feel drowsy during the day, never feel well rested despite 7-8 hours of sleep, feel like you don’t think clearly like you used to, snore, can’t breathe through your nose, have uncontrolled blood pressure or any other signs of inadequate sleep, we’d be happy to do a complimentary initial evaluation for a potential sleep breathing disorder. To make an appointment for a free initial eval click here and follow the link to “get started.”
Understanding Treatment Options
If you have already been diagnosed or discover a diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, there are several treatment options. The dental or oral option is to wear an appliance similar to an athletic mouth guard that positions your lower jaw forward while you sleep. Moving the jaw forward tightens the soft palate muscles and lifts the tissues at the base of the tongue which opens your airway. Most patients experience immediate reduction of snoring and after a few adjustments to find the perfect position, also experience a sounder nights sleep with less disruptions from obstruction of their breathing.
Oral appliance therapy however is not for everyone. Other treatments include wearing a CPAP, surgery to open the airway, or promoting sleep positions that reduce obstruction of the airway.
Get Help Today!
If you are snoring, a simple at-home test can be done to be sure that you don’t have sleep apnea. You don’t always have to go to a sleep lab overnight. But we must know what we are treating before we can do any treatment. For this reason, a test to find out if you have any sleep breathing disorder must be completed. If a dentist offers to treat your snoring without knowing a diagnosis, you could have sleep apnea and not know it. If the snoring is treated, but the appliance is not treating the apnea effectively, you may stop snoring but still have the pauses in breathing that can cause drops in oxygen levels and disruption of important sleep stages.
Sleep Apnea Treatment by Whitney Frank, DDS
In the last 3 months, our office has helped 5 patients discover that they had undiagnosed sleep apnea. Approximately 9% of middle-aged women and 25% of middle-aged men suffer from OSA. The prevelance of OSA is similar to that of asthma and diabetes. A 2008 study indicated up to 80% of OSA cases remain undiagnosed. This number is hopefully improving as more dentists are joining the cause to screen for OSA and treat it. Reducing the effects of OSA on overall health and reducing the risk of drowsy driving is of utmost importance. And wouldn’t we all love to feel more rested!
I’m so excited about being able to help our patients and have loved the conversations and lightbulbs that have clicked on for many patients who can relate to the symptoms I’ve mentioned about sleep apnea. It’s great to see the hope that people have when they find out their noisy, snoring husband can sleep quietly or that there’s an alternative to the cumbersome CPAP machine they tried and couldn’t use. Ask at your next appointment or call us today for more information. Again, we are happy to do a FREE evaluation to discuss your symptoms and answer your questions.
Will Insures Cover Snoring and Sleep Apnea Treatments?
Most people ask “how much does it cost and does my insurance cover it?” Because it is a medical treatment, most medical insurances will cover an oral appliance for sleep apnea. We can help find out what your medical insurance will cover. Call our office for details. If we can gather your information here at the Get Started link, we can start you on the path a better night’s sleep.
Yours in oral health,
Whitney Frank, DDS