Truckers for a Cause Help Raise Awareness

We’ve previously discussed sleep apnea and its prevalence in truck drivers, so you’re already aware of the high risk of accidents there. While we continue to educate and raise awareness for sleep apnea, we’ve got a little extra help – Truckers for a Cause. I think it’s great! The more awareness for sleep apnea, the better!

What is Tuckers for a Cause?

Bob Stanton is a cofounder of Truckers for a Cause, and is a truck driver. Truckers for a Cause is dedicated to educating truckers about the dangers of sleep apnea. In their words, “people helping people with sleep apnea”. This is a great cause and one that should never be taken lightly. If you are aware of a truck driver in your life, or a patient that might be a truck driver, direct them to this group for further help and guidance.

While at a conference on fatigue research, Stanton outlined several challenges truckers face in treating sleep apnea with the use of a CPAP machine in-cab. This is where dentists can step in. We understand that the use of a CPAP machine while on the road can be difficult and bulky, which is why an oral appliance might be a great alternative–truck drivers can get the rest they need, while treating their sleep apnea. It’s a win-win situation.

Sleep Apnea Regulations

According to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 391.41(b)(5), it states:

“A person is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person: Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of a respiratory dysfunction likely to interfere with ability to control and drive a commercial motor vehicle safely.

Since a driver must be alert at all times, any change in his or her mental state is in direct conflict with highway safety. Even the slightest impairment in respiratory function under emergency conditions (when greater oxygen supply is necessary for performance) may be detrimental to safe driving. There are many conditions that interfere with oxygen exchange and may result in incapacitation, including emphysema, chronic asthma, carcinoma, tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis and sleep apnea.”

It’s interesting to look into this topic further because truck drivers who suffer from sleep apnea can directly affect other drivers on the road. This is why so many regulators have taken a strict stance on testing for sleep apnea in truck drivers.

Let’s take charge of this new insight and new partner in sleep apnea care. What steps do you think we should take to further educate truck drivers on the importance of sleep apnea treatment and how oral appliance therapy can help?

Economic Impact of Sleep Apnea Expands Beyond Economic Revenue

I came across this article on Delaware Online that I wanted to share with you all. We’ve touched base on the idea that sleep apnea has a significant impact on the economy, but costs even more when it goes untreated. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, but more than 80% do not receive a diagnosis.

Use Delaware as an Example

We don’t keep track of numbers specific to each state (but we should). In Delaware, those who treat sleep apnea (whether it is dentists or medical professionals), have said that awareness is on the rise in Delaware–that’s something every state should attain to do. A clinician education specialist with the Delaware Sleep Society stated that they had seen an increase in their study volume and are dedicated to promoting good sleeping habits.

In fact, in March 2015, about 100 patients visited the Delaware Sleep Society’s sleep disorder center. The number increased to 254 during the same month a year later. And, while statistics for 2017 are not yet available, we can take a guess that the number increased again this year. We need to improve our education and availability of information for patients so they know the risks at hand for untreated sleep apnea. Delaware is a great example of how the numbers are increasing due to awareness–we just need to hop on board.

A Look at the Numbers

Nationwide, sleep disorder centers saw a four percent growth every year between 2010 and 2015, according to IBISWorld, a Los Angeles-based tracker of consumer data. Due to the continued growth, in 2010 there were 2,280 sleep disorder centers in the U.S. generating about $5.9 billion. Then, in 2015, there were about 2,800 centers with an estimated revenue of $7.1 billion. This growth will continue to increase to $10 billion by 2020.

However, the economic impact of sleep apnea goes far beyond the economic revenue for those who treat sleep apnea. When sleep apnea goes undiagnosed, the economic burden is about $149.6 billion, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This includes nearly $87 billion in lost productivity, $26 billion in car crashes and $6.5 billion in workplace accidents.

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to an array of other serious health problems including heart disease, diabetes and depression. As a result, undiagnosed sleep apnea leads to $30 billion a year in increased health care costs. According to the AASM, if everyone who suffers from sleep apnea received treatment, it would create a savings of just over $100 billion–now that’s a lot!
It’s time we up our game with educating our patients about the need to screen for sleep apnea. We can help the sleep apnea industry grow, while keeping productivity high with proper treatment. What are ways we can continue to grow the education area of sleep apnea?

International Board Member of British Society of Dental Sleep Medicine

Over the past year, I have been working closely with Dr. Aditi Desai and her team at the British Society of Dental Sleep Medicine (BSDSM) to educate dentists. Together we have created an effective lecture series to better provide advanced information for dentists in the UK.

Last summer I flew to London to lead an “Introduction to Dental Sleep Medicine” with the BSDSM. This group of dentists were so interested in dental sleep medicine that we worked together to ensure we could continue to provide these courses every year. In the introduction course, I worked with Dr. Desai on a module for temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), craniofacial pain (CFP), and sleep bruxism (SB).

After working with Dr. Desai at the British Society of Dental Sleep Medicine, it is my pleasure to announce my new position as International Board. I look forward to working more with Dr. Desai, other board members and the dentists in London, as well as surrounding countries. Together we can continue to provide exceptional education on dental sleep medicine, TMD and craniofacial pain.

Should Sleep Apnea Really be the Best Defense in a Trial?

We’ve heard it several times already, “sleep apnea made me do it” or “sleep apnea is the reason I fell asleep.” Is this argument always valid? Should we pay closer attention to those who claim they suffer from sleep apnea? These are all important questions, and while we don’t want to lessen the severity that sleep apnea has on an individual, we also don’t want to overuse it. In a New York Post article, sleep apnea appears to be a lawyer’s new favorite criminal defense.

The Charge

On a flight, a 21-year-old woman had her earbuds in and hood up while she was eating her in-flight lunch when a large middle-aged man sleeping next to her appeared to jump awake. At first, the man grabbed the woman’s shoulder. Soon after he went around and grabbed the woman’s right breast. The groping from the large man lasted about 30 seconds before fellow passengers could pull them apart. The woman’s attacker was brought up on federal sex-abuse charges.

The Defense

In response to the federal sex-abuse charges, the man’s lawyer presented a bizarre defense that has been used far too often. And, that’s a shame for those who actually suffer from this condition. He said, “Sleep apnea made me do it.” The man was eventually acquitted.

Can you believe that? A deadly condition like sleep apnea is not one to be used lightly, and when someone uses this condition as an excuse, it can give sleep apnea a bad name. We don’t want that to happen.

What We Can Do

We’ve seen this happen far too many times now, but what can we do about it? While we can’t change the opinions, we can continue to educate our patients. Through proper education and treatment, we can not only help our patients live healthier lives, but also understand the true definition of this condition.

From train crashes to cases of sexual abuse, where do we draw the line? I wish I knew the answer to this, but I believe that the more we educate ourselves, employees, and patients, the more we can avoid these situations. Whether it is preventing a crash through proper treatment, or allowing for people like the man in this story to not get away with sleep apnea as an excuse for touching a woman by providing proper education, we need to stay strong.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition, and we need to continue to provide the services we offer in order to educate the masses.