The link between sleep apnea and other health conditions

About one in five Americans suffer from sleep apnea, which is a number that is far too high. And with that comes untreated sleep apnea, which can lead to further complications in a person’s health. Of those that suffer from this condition, most don’t even realize it. This can be a deadly mistake.

Whether our patients are falling asleep watching TV, sitting in the car or even at their desk, it is important that we educate our patients on the negative effects of sleep apnea before it’s too late.

What are the complications?

Many patients state that they are always tired, have memory loss and high blood pressure–all signs that they might suffer from sleep apnea. After undergoing a sleep study, it can uncover obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Interrupted sleep can lead to an array of health problems including severe daytime fatigue, heart and liver ailments, sexual dysfunction and sleep-deprived partners.

Those that suffer from sleep apnea can also pose as public safety risks. For example, engineers in two New York City commuter train crashes had sleep apnea. These crashes injured hundreds and even killed one person. After an investigation, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board found that both engineers suffered from severe sleep apnea–neither had been tested before the crashes. And 4 years before that, a train derailed in New York City (again). This time it killed four people. According to the NTSB, the driver had an undiagnosed sleep disorder.

What can be done?

While CPAP therapy is the most widely used and accepted forms of treatment for sleep apnea, dentists can offer an alternative: oral appliance therapy. These devices can adjust the position of the jaw and tongue to improve breathing throughout the night. By advancing your knowledge of sleep apnea, you can provide advanced options for your patients to help in treatment and to prevent further complications.  

Anyone can suffer from sleep apnea, but certain factors increase a patient’s risk for the sleep disorder, such as excess weight, thicker necks, a narrowed airway, being male or older, family history, use of alcohol, sedatives, smoking and nasal congestion. Stay ahead of the game and complete continuing education to ensure you know what to look out for and what to recommend to help your patients remain healthy.

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.

Lectures to Attend in the Second Part of 2018

Last week we talked about upcoming lectures for 2018. Today we are going to cover the second part of the year. I’ve even thrown in a 2019 lecture you might be interested in! The lectures and seminars below are from August to February of next year. By planning in advance, I hope that you can better map out your continuing education needs.  I understand that last minute trips can be expensive and time consuming, so let’s get a head start and look at the second half of the year.

August 3-4, 2018

Topic: Sleep & Pain Mini Residency Session 2

Location: Atlanta, GA

September 14-15, 2018

Topic: Successful Implementation of Dental Sleep Medicine

Location: Scottsdale, AZ

October 26-27, 2018

Topic: Sleep & Pain Mini Residency Session 3

Location: Atlanta, GA

November 2-3, 2018

Topic: Sleep, TMD, & Craniofacial Pain Symposium

Location: Nashville, TN

December 6-7, 2018

Topic: Correlation Between Airway, Bruxism & Craniofacial Pain

Location: Jupiter, FL

February 8-9, 2019

Topic: Sleep & Pain Mini Residency Session 4

Location: Atlanta, GA

As I’ve said before, I look forward to meeting everyone at an upcoming lecture (or all of them). The completion of continuing education helps us to provide our patients with the best care possible. Whether you are in search of advanced certification or just want to remain fresh on the latest advancements, attending these courses will help. See you soon!

 

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.