Why should dentists treat sleep apnea?

Most of the time, people who have sleep apnea are not aware of their symptoms because they are asleep when they occur. If your patient is unaware of his or her sleep apnea, you may be able to identify particular physical symptoms. As a dentist, you play a crucial role in the diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. By understanding sleep apnea and by helping patients to treat sleep apnea, dentists can save many lives.

What is the negative effect of not treating sleep apnea?

Despite having clear signs and symptoms, many patients with obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed. In return, when a patient is finally diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), he or she has had obvious symptoms of the disorder for an average of seven years. During those seven years, patients report visiting their family physician about 17 times and a subspecialist about nine times.

When sleep apnea goes undiagnosed, patients begin to experience a range of worsening symptoms and health conditions. By properly educating yourself and your practice, you can better diagnose and treat sleep apnea in your patients, which helps improve their overall health.

What are the complications associated with sleep apnea?

Comorbidities of sleep apnea have been shown to include a number of health conditions, including an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and more. Let’s explore five health problems that are linked with sleep apnea:

  • High Blood Pressure. OSA can contribute to high blood pressure in people who have it due to frequent wakings at nighttime. This causes hormonal systems to go into overdrive, which results in high blood pressure levels.
  • Heart Disease. OSA can also lead to heart attacks, which can cause people to die in the middle of the night due to low oxygen or the stress of waking up frequently during sleep.
  • Type 2 Diabetes. Sleep apnea is very common among people with type 2 diabetes, which can also lead to obesity.
  • Acid Reflux. While there is no proof that sleep apnea causes acid reflux or persistent heartburn, it has been shown that people with sleep apnea do complain of acid reflux. As a result treatment of sleep apnea appears to improve acid reflux and vice versa.
  • Obesity. The addition of weight raises the risk of sleep apnea, while losing weight can help cure sleep apnea.

What is the financial burden of sleep apnea?

Sleep loss and sleep apnea affect an individual’s performance, safety and quality of life.  Almost 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries happen because of driver sleepiness, independent of alcohol. Additionally, sleep loss and sleep disorders have a significant economic impact. The high costs of untreated sleep apnea are far more costly than what happens when delivering adequate treatments.

Each year, we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on direct medical costs associated with doctor visits, hospital services, prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.  When compared to healthy individuals, those who suffer from sleep loss and sleep disorders are less productive. These individuals also experience an increased health care utilization and an increased likelihood of accidents.

It is important to treat sleep apnea as a dentist. If you treat sleep apnea, you can help to improve your patients’ overall health and well-being.

It’s all about the sleep apnea facts

As dentists, we want to know everything we can about how to treat our patients. And as dental sleep medicine specialists, that means the sleep apnea facts. To help you better understand the needs for providing our patients with sleep apnea treatment, I have compiled some helpful–and interesting–facts.

Here are some sleep apnea facts you can bring back to your team and your patients.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea

Despite having clear signs and symptoms, many patients with obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed. The negative effects of not treatment sleep apnea are evident:

  • On average, a patient goes 7 years without proper treatment.
  • During those 7 years, patients visit their family physician about 17 times and subspecialists about 9 times.
  • Undiagnosed sleep apnea causes worsening of symptoms and health conditions.

Health complications exist

Comorbidities of sleep apnea have been shown to include a number of health conditions, including:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Acid Reflux
  • Obesity

Performance, safety and quality of life

Sleep loss and sleep apnea affect an individual’s performance, safety and quality of life – causing a financial burden on healthcare and productivity.

  • Almost 20% of all serious car crash injuries in the general population are associated with driver sleepiness.
  • When sleep apnea is not treated, it is far more costly than it would be to deliver adequate treatments.
  • Each year, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on direct medical costs.
  • Compared to healthy individuals, those who suffer from sleep loss and sleep disorders are less productive.
  • Today, most patients do not go under surgery for treatment. Instead, most are treated with an oral appliance as the leading form of sleep apnea treatment due to their convenience and ease of use.
  • The availability of custom-made oral appliances ensures accuracy and the best results.
  • The largest numbers of patients that suffer from sleep apnea are in the mild to moderate categories, which should be treated with oral appliances.
  • Understanding the importance of oral appliance therapy is vital in the treatment of sleep apnea.

Incorporating sleep apnea treatment into your practice, helps improve the services you offer in addition to helping improve your patients’ overall health.

Breathing through your nose may improve memory.

I recently read an article in the magazine Sleep Review and it was very interesting. In this article, it stated that breathing through your nose may actually improve memory. That really is great to hear and understand. This is based on a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience. In this study, researchers examined the effect of respiration on consolidation of episodic odor memory.

How memory works with sleep

Both female and male participants encoded odors. This was followed by a one hour awake resting consolidation phase where they either breathed solely through their nose or mouth. Immediately after this phase, memory for odors was tested. Recognition memory saw a significant increase during nasal respiration compared with mouth respiration.

From this we see the first evidence that respiration directly impacts consolidation of episodic events. It also supports the idea that core cognitive functions are modulated by the respiratory cycle–adding to the influence of respiration on human perception and cognition.

While the study did not look at brain activity, it did suggest that nose breathing may facilitate communication between sensory and memory networks. This is because memories are replayed and strengthened during consolidation.

Encourage your patients to take deep breaths through their nose to help improve their memory. This can also help their stress levels. It is an all around good idea for their health and well-being.

How to get a good night’s sleep infographic

Getting the proper amount of sleep each night is important for our patients’ health and well-being. As you know, this is because sleep is considered to be one of the biggest–and most underrated–factors in a person’s health. To help your patients get a better night’s sleep, take a look at the infographic below.

Feel free to download and print this infographic to share with your patients. Together we can provide our patients with the care they need to live healthier lives.