Watch Out for Sleep Apnea with New Hypertension Guideline

Since the new hypertension guideline from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association was released in November 2017, the way physicians diagnose and treat high blood pressure has changed. And with the new guideline comes a section on sleep apnea. Have you seen this new guideline yet?  

What does the guideline say?

The new guideline lowers the blood pressure cutoff for a hypertension diagnosis from 140/90 mm Hg to 130/80 mm Hg. And instead of using the term prehypertension, they recommend using stage 1 hypertension for levels of 130 to 139 mm Hg systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic pressure and 120 to 129 mm Hg systolic and diastolic of less than 80 as “elevated.”

For obstructive sleep apnea, it is a risk factor for several cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, coronary and cerebrovascular diseases. Studies have shown that the presence of OSA is associated with an increased risk of hypertension. It has also been hypothesized that treatment for sleep apnea will have more pronounced effects on BP reduction in resistant hypertension.

What does this mean for dentists?

This means we need to be extra cautious of our patients. Now that the level for hypertension has lowered, we need to pay attention to how that affects sleep apnea and vice versa. The guideline also recommends CPAP therapy as an effective form of treatment for improving sleep apnea, but studies that have been conducted showed that its effects on BP were only small.

Through the guideline, we can accept that CPAP therapy is an option, but what about oral appliance therapy? With the number of individuals with hypertension now at almost 50 percent, we need to pay closer attention to OSA and how it affects hypertension and high blood pressure.

Talk to your patients, include information on the health questionnaire and provide educational materials so that you can continue to provide your patients with the care they need and deserve. On top of that continue to complete advanced education to remain up-to-date with important information.

Pay attention to dental side effects during long-term oral appliance therapy

We understand how successful treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be. However, we need to pay attention to the potential side effects from long-term oral appliance use. If we are aware of these side effects, we can help educate our patients and prevent them from occurring and interrupting care.

What do we do as dentists to help?

I have read several studies that looked at the predictors of dental changes associated with long-term treatment with oral appliances in patients with OSA. From these studies I have found that yes, long-term use can lead to dental complications if we do not educate our patients.

Before you fit your patient for an oral appliance, ask them if they are willing to take at least two-minutes out of their morning to perform exercises. That’s all it takes. Just two minutes (maybe even less) a day to prevent further complications. And, of course, if they do notice any shifts in their teeth, it is important for them to keep you up-to-date. You can provide an adjustment to their treatment or offer other solutions to improve this change.

When you are fitting your patients for their oral appliance, let them know that it is important to perform daily exercises after removal of the device. By performing jaw exercises, it can help prevent the patient’s mouth from becoming stiff or sore. It can also help to prevent lock-jaw and other complications.

It is our duty as dentists to take care of our patients and that means proper education for daily exercises after removing the oral appliance each morning.

What are you doing to help your patients through the oral appliance process? Are you having them perform exercises? If so, what kind? I am interested in learning what everyone is doing to help their patients each step of this journey.

Minimizing mandibular advancement in oral appliance therapy

In a recent study from the journal Sleep Medicine researchers looked at the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with an oral appliance (OA). There is currently no gold standard method to fine-tune the mandibular advancement. This study was created to analyze the effect of gradual increment of mandibular advancement on the evolution of the apnea.

What were the results?

The researchers proposed the use of a multiparametric titration protocol to optimize the mandibular advancement. Thirty percent of the sample population exhibited the best results without any mandibular advancement and low frequency of side effects were observed. There were 36 patients involved in this study (22 were men) with a mean age of 57 years.

The mean mandibular advancement was between 1.7 and 1.5 mm achieving about 50 percent reduction in AHI in 72 percent of the patients. There were also 27 patients with an AHI of 10. Of the 21 patients with moderate to severe OSA, 17 had the highest decrease in the AHI in a mandibular advancement of about three millimeters.

Researchers found that monitoring the subjective symptoms of the patient and objective evolution in the AHI could minimize the mandibular advancement needed for proper treatment of OSA. What are some other ways to help improve oral appliance therapy results with our patients?

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.