Alcohol and Sleep Apnea is a Dangerous Cocktail

This St. Patrick’s Day, when your patients are getting ready to go celebrate with friends and family, take a moment to provide some tips to help protect them from the effects of sleep apnea. As you may already know, alcohol has a negative effect on sleep apnea symptoms.

Alcohol may affect sleep and impact sleep apnea in several ways. So, should people with sleep apnea never drink alcohol? Will limiting alcohol at least help a little? Let’s take a look at the answers so you can help your patients protect themselves during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and beyond.

Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

In general, alcohol is a substance that may have significant impacts on a person’s overall health. Many people may not realize that alcohol may also affect their sleep, especially if they suffer from sleep apnea and other sleep-disordered breathing conditions. Why? Well, alcohol can decrease a person’s drive to breathe, which slows down breathing and makes breaths shallow. In addition, it may relax the muscles of the throat, which may make it more likely for the upper airway to collapse.

The Consequences

As a result, alcohol use causes apnea events to occur more frequently in someone who is predisposed to them. Additionally, the drops in oxygen levels of the blood become more severe, which may lead to increased carbon dioxide levels in the body, a condition called hypercapnia. The consequences of sleep apnea may become more pronounced with alcohol use.

If your patient suffers from sleep apnea, the best advice would be to abstain from all alcohol use. At the very lease, alcohol should not be used in the several hours prior to bedtime to help minimize the effects experienced overnight. It is also important for patients to utilize their oral appliance or CPAP machine if they suffer from sleep apnea.

So, for St. Patrick’s Day, let your patients have their fun, but be sure to inform them of the negative affects of alcohol on sleep apnea.

Content Marketing and Your Practice

In today’s technologically advanced society, simply owning and running your dental practice is not enough. While treating your patients is one of the most important parts of your practice, there is another area that is just as important: Content Marketing. Yes, you heard me right. So, what does content marketing have to do with dentistry? Everything! The use of content marketing not only helps get your practice’s name out there, but it also helps to educate your patients so that they can continue to take proper care of themselves outside of your office as well. Here’s what you can do with content marketing to help improve your presence:

Blog, Blog, Blog

By incorporating a blog on your website you are creating an extension of your site. Utilize your blog to share important information about your practice, dentistry, sleep apnea, craniofacial pain, tips, and other information you feel your patients need to know. The blog is there for you to use it as you wish. Whether it is once a month, once a week or twice a week—make sure you are blogging to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. 

Get Social

Jump on social media to interact with your patients. Not only can your patients “like” your office, but they can leave reviews, message you and ask questions. It also allows you to actively respond to your patients outside of office hours, as well as a platform to share all those blog posts you will be creating!

Reach Out to Patients

Reaching out to your patients is simple. Whether you create a monthly newsletter or send out weekly emails with updates, it is important to reach out to your patients to keep the lines of communication open. You want to make sure your patients know they can contact you with questions or concerns and you will be open to speaking with them.

In-Office Education

From pamphlets to handouts, keeping your patients educated is important in your office, too. To keep them educated, you can put together pamphlets or one page handouts that touch base on important information that you feel they should know. You might also consider a frequently asked questions sheet that covers areas many patients are always interested in.

No matter what route you take, it is important to make the most out of content marketing for not only reaching your patients, but in creating a presence for your practice. Contact me if you have any questions!

Help TMD Patients Eat Right

Without proper nutrition your patients increase the risk of either gaining or losing weight, or suffering from nutritional deficiencies due to the pain caused by TMD. And through this, it can lead to other health problems. When it comes to maintaining your patients’ health and diet, it is important to remind them to eat fruits, vegetables, starches, protein and dairy, but to also be mindful of their TMD along the way.

A Background on TMD

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are complex and poorly understood, and are characterized by pain in the jaw joint and/or surrounding tissues and limitation in jaw movements. These problems can affect a person’s ability to chew and swallow foods, while limiting how wide he or she can open their mouth. The immediate causes of TMD conditions such as:

  • Injury
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle problems
  • Autoimmune and connective tissue disease
  • Developmental conditions
  • Movement disorders affecting the jaw

Whatever your patient’s situation may be, it is clear that TMD alone can impact the quality of life and lead to poor nutrition if the jaw pain and oral disability seriously affects their diet.

Encourage Patients to Eat Right

Many people who suffer from TMD tend to struggle with determining what to eat in order to maintain a proper weight and ensure adequate protein, vitamin and mineral status. Food choices will vary depending on the amount of pain your patients experience and their ability to open the mouth, chew and swallow. For those who are able to adequately open their mouths and have minimal pain, a soft or easy to chew diet will work well. A soft diet is defined as food that requires minimal chewing, including:

  • Dairy/Dairy Alternatives: Smooth yogurt, soft cheeses, milk, custard, puddings, and soymilk.
  • Grains: Soft bread, corn bread, muffins without seeds or nuts, soft tortillas, pancakes, and quinoa.
  • Fruits: Canned fruits, bananas, ripe melon, baked apples, fruit juice, and fruit smoothies.
  • Vegetables: Cooked carrots, squash, zucchini, spinach, kale or other greens, avocados, green beans, and cooked pumpkin.
  • Protein Foods: Soft-cooked chicken or turkey with gravy, meatloaf, fish, deli meats, meatballs, tuna, refried beans, and smooth nut butters.
  • Soups: Cream-based soups, tomato soup, and broth-based soups.
  • Desserts: Soft cakes, cobblers and pies, frozen yogurt, sherbet, milkshakes and puddings.

If your patient is unable to tolerate a soft diet, a pureed diet may be a better option. Some examples of foods that can be included in a pureed diet are:

  • Dairy/Dairy Alternatives: Smooth yogurt, soft cheeses, milk, custard, puddings, and soymilk.
  • Grains: Bread that has been soaked into a dissolvable consistency, pureed pasta, hot cereals, grits, and mashed potatoes.
  • Fruits: Applesauce, mashed ripe bananas, fruit juice, and seedless jam/jelly.
  • Vegetables: Mashed white or sweet potatoes, pureed carrots, beets, beans, peas, creamed corn and hummus.
  • Protein Foods: Pureed meats, pureed/scrambled eggs, crustless quiche, egg custards, and yogurt-based smoothies.
  • Soups: Soups that are smooth or that have been put through the blender.
  • Desserts: Puddings, custards, dessert soups, gelatin, and fondue.

By keeping a list of foods they can eat and foods not to eat, it is a good place for patients to start in ensuring they are eating the right foods. For your patients suffering from TMD it is important to guide them in choosing the right foods to eat. If you are not sure what to recommend your patients to eat, contact Dr. Mayoor Patel for more information in helping to protect your patients while minimizing jaw pain.

Provide Sleep Apnea Relief with Positional Therapy

We know that a number of factors can lead to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and that many patients experience more than just one of those symptoms. With that in mind, there have been various sleep studies out there that have shown how a person’s sleeping position can affect the severity of their sleep apnea. Additionally, some sleep apnea sufferers, their sleeping position is the leading cause for their sleep breathing disorder—who would have thought that? So, when a patient’s sleeping position is the leading cause, we can utilize positional therapy to help find relief.

What is Positional Therapy?

Here’s how it works: Positional therapy is simply the changing of one’s position during sleep in order to open the airway and allow for less obstructed breathing. Positional sleep therapy prevents, in one way or another, patients from sleeping in the supine position, which will often obstruct their airway.

Positional Therapy can be performed by completing one of the following:

  • Strap a small ball to the back of the neck to prevent supine sleeping.
  • Strap a foam wedge on the back to encourage side sleeping.
  • Place an alarm that wakes the sleeper each time they roll on their back to sleep.
  • Encourage a patient to train themselves not to sleep on their back.

While it doesn’t seem like much, positional therapy can significantly help your patients get a better night’s sleep. Additionally, it is only effective if the patient’s OSA is in part caused or aggravated by back sleeping. Positional therapy is not a cure for sleep apnea, but it can help to reduce the number of apnea episodes that occur per hour.

This is a therapy that is worth looking into to provide further help for our patients. What are your thoughts on positional therapy for help in providing relief from sleep apnea?