Even more reason to encourage patients to treat sleep apnea

We have yet another tragic death story to share that further proves just how important it is to treat sleep apnea. Did you ever watch the Disney movie “Heavyweights”? Joseph Wayne Miller, who starred in the movie as a Park Ridge, Illinois teen, died in his sleep at the age of 36. His mother, Patricia Clark, stated that he suffered from sleep apnea.

While he suffered from sleep apnea, did he do anything to attempt to improve his health and the condition? We might not know that answer, but we can use this as an example for helping our patients get the care they need and stick with it.

What do we tell our patients?

While treating sleep apnea is important in getting a good night’s rest, treatment can also help treat and maybe even eradicate many other health complications.  In addition to decreasing daytime sleepiness and removing a barrier to effective weight loss and/or management, treating sleep apnea can also improve an array of other complications, including:

  • Psychological well-being.
  • Memory, concentration and other cognitive functioning.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Lower blood pressure levels.
  • Productivity during the day with fewer sick days.
  • Decrease in the risk of traffic accidents.

A better night’s sleep can go a long way toward improving our patients’ overall health and well-being.

Patients with OSA experience reduced long-term cardiovascular morbidity, mortality

We have known that there is a link between sleep apnea and other health conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. In another study, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

This study looked at the effects of oral appliance therapy on a broad spectrum of cardiovascular outcomes. Researchers looked at various literature up to December 31, 2016. They found 25 relevant full-text articles with 16 considered methodologically sufficient.

What was found?

From the pooled data, it showed a significant reduction in daytime systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to baseline. However, no significant reductions in heart rate, except for daytime heart rate when compared to inactive/placebo oral appliance therapy.

Compared to CPAP therapy, treatment was equally effective in reducing blood pressure. Another observational study showed that oral appliance therapy was as effective as CPAP in reducing cardiovascular death.

Through this we can determine that oral appliance therapy may lead to a reduction in long-term cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in OSA patients. However, further research will be needed to continue to advance this.

Why don’t more sleep physicians recommend oral appliances for OSA?

It’s an important question that many of us continue to wonder about – why aren’t more sleep physicians recommending oral appliances for sleep apnea? Well, to begin with, there appears to be a lack of data on the subject. While most dentists understand the importance of using oral appliances for the treatment of sleep apnea, physicians are still not in the know. So let’s get them some data.

What information is out there?

After doing a quick search through Google Scholar I found the following studies that showcase how effective oral appliances are for the treatment of sleep apnea in our patients:

Another reason is because they may not be comfortable with the process. If that is the case, then we must help them get more acquainted. This can be done by contacting their offices and educating them on the services we provide. Through proper education and understanding, you can help sleep physicians become better acquainted with oral appliance therapy as a successful alternative to the CPAP machine.

They are ignorant about topics they know little about, which is why it is important to educate them on oral appliances. Look up studies, attend classes and do what you can to provide the information they need to better understand this treatment alternative so we can all continue to help patients get a better night’s sleep.

GERD and Barrett’s esophagus patients have sleep apnea

It has been shown that gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and Barrett’s esophagus (BE) patients have higher rates of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and poor sleep quality. Studies found that about 20 percent of Americans suffer from GERD, which is chronic heartburn or acid regurgitation. These studies have looked at the relationship between GERD and poor quality of sleep. From this they found that on average, these patients have worse sleep and overall low quality of sleep.

What is the connection?

GERD may contribute to sleep apnea by causing upper inflammation. However, sleep apnea might lead to GERD because it causes an increase in intra-thoracic pressure. Researchers found that OSA cases were higher among GERD patients than BE patients. Even when smoking, BMI and hypertension were considered, the rates of poor sleep still remained higher in those with GERD.

While BE is considered a more severe condition than GERD, researchers still found that poor quality of sleep and OSA were more closely associated with GERD. However, another study states that OSA is actually a leading risk factor for BE. What is also interesting is that sleep apnea and BE have common risk factors, including being overweight and having GERD.

With a closer look into our patients’ overall health, we can get a better look at what might be adding to their symptoms or even what might be causing further complications.