Does treating sleep apnea improve diabetes management?

Managing diabetes requires a “day-in, day-out” effort to control the factors that affect blood sugar levels. And what might make it even more difficult to manage symptoms is if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. A study conducted by a team of scientists, including two professors at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is working as part of a multi-center project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The team of researchers looked to assess what impact treating obstructive sleep apnea has on diabetes self-management. Let’s take a look at what impact treating OSA has on diabetes self-management for our patients.

What is the connection?

OSA is a common disease that is linked to a range of problems in patients with diabetes and those who do not suffer from this condition. From poor work performance to heart failure, sleep apnea is the reason behind many health conditions. It can even make patients with diabetes less sensitive to their insulin.

In a recent study, researchers split patients in half. One half used a CPAP machine to treat their sleep apnea, while the other half used a mock CPAP machine that looks and feels like a regular machine, but does not impart any of its benefits. Throughout the study patients also underwent periodic blood sugar checks.

While the study has not concluded yet, researchers are hopeful that treatment of sleep apnea will help improve diabetes self-management in their patients. If the study does show that using CPAP machines improves blood sugar control in patients with diabetes and sleep apnea, there will be no reason why we should not screen more of our patients with diabetes for OSA.

If a patient has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, physicians can persuade them to use CPAP machines regularly. This can work with oral appliances too. Patients with diabetes struggle so much with their sugar levels. This study can provide some relief knowing there is another option to help improve their health.

I know this study doesn’t focus on oral appliances. But should look to oral appliance therapy as a safe alternative to CPAP for our patients.

Worldwide almost 1 billion people suffer from sleep apnea

Now is the time to act. International sleep experts estimate that there are just about one billion people worldwide that suffer from sleep apnea. With so many people suffering from this sleep disorder, now is the time to begin providing dental sleep medicine services in your practice. The longer you wait, the more competition will be out there, which will make it harder for you to set yourself apart from the rest. So, what are you waiting for?

A new sleep apnea number

In a study presented by ResMed and shared in Sleep Review, an international panel of researchers looked to provide a clearer scope of the impact of sleep apnea. It was previously estimated that there were 100 million people with obstructive sleep apnea, which was presented to us in 2007 from a World Health Organization study using the best available data at the time.

Technology improvements allowed researchers to look at more advanced ways of detecting OSA and underreported statistics from other areas of the world. This new study looks at an impacted population that is significantly larger than previously identified.

What does this mean for dental sleep medicine?

It means we should speak with our patients even more about how sleep can affect their overall health. It should also get people to think more about whether or not their bed partner snores. The more you get your patients to think about sleep apnea, the better we can help them. Sleep apnea is not a disease that only affects older, overweight men–it can affect anyone.

Let’s take charge of our patients’ health and well-being by providing dental sleep medicine sources in our dental offices. By completing continuing education, you can be better equipped to treat these patients. And while it might only be a fraction of the 1 billion people in the world, it can still play a big impact on the health of our nation.

Contact me to learn more about dental sleep medicine and upcoming lectures you can attend to advance your knowledge of this growing condition.

How to help TMD patients best choose their food

Limited jaw movement or locking of the TMJ can have a negative effect on mandibular opening, biting and chewing. Myofacial pain is characterized by pain originating from the masticatory and other pericranial muscles. TMD also limits the mandibular opening and pain aggravated during function, specifically when eating and chewing.

Choosing food for TMD patients

A patient’s eating habits can be significantly altered by this condition. It can also compromise the quality of their diet. When patients are experiencing jaw pain and difficulty eating or chewing, how do you help them? What diet suggestions can you offer?The food choices in the infographic below can help:

For more information on TMD and helping your patients improve their diets, please contact me. We can discuss food options and how to cook meals. I can also provide you with this fun handout for your office and patients! What else are you doing to improve your patients’ diets?

Patients who snore might suffer from nerve and muscle damage in palate

According to Umeå University in Sweden, people who snore might have extensive tissue damage in the nerves and muscles of the soft palate. As a result, this can create problems for patients when swallowing. It can also contribute to the development of sleep apnea. Treatment options often include early intervention to stop snoring, which can have benefits in healing or preventing the development of sleep apnea.

Development of sleep apnea remains unclear

It is still unclear why some people develop sleep apnea. Some factors that might contribute are obesity, a small throat, neurological diseases and hormonal disorders. However, even if the patient doesn’t have any of those factors they might have sleep apnea. Rresearch has also shown that tissue damage in the soft palate is also an important contributor to the development of sleep apnea and disturbances in swallowing function. Farhan Shah, PhD, a student at the department of integrative medical biology at Umeå University, says that the nerve muscle injuries appear to contribute to the collapse of the upper airway during sleep. The nerve and muscle damage might be the result of recurrent snoring vibrations that the tissues are exposed to.

His dissertation looked at eight patients who snore and 14 with both snoring and sleep apnea compared to 18 non-snoring people. The patients were studied overnight. Tissue samples from their soft palate were also analyzed to detect muscle and nerve lesions. Results showed that snorers and sleep apnea patients had extensive damage to both nerves and muscles. This is related to the degree of swallowing disorders and severity of sleep apnea.

Research is needed on muscle damage

This is good information for us to know, but there is still so more to observe and research. This knowledge can help us to gain a better understanding of the various connections.

This research is also a step in the right direction and we need to look at treatment of sleep apnea. Will treatment help to prevent nerve and muscle damage? Could it prevent or cure further deterioration in patients who snore and/or have sleep apnea?