Why would your dentist be concerned with Sleep Apnea?

Medical science is now finding new relationships between your teeth, gums, mouth, and jaw that wouldn’t seem at first glance to be under a dentists zone of care, but we find they greatly affect the overall health of our patients. Sleep Apnea one of the most important of these.

 

Q:What is Sleep Apnea and how does it occur?

A: Sleep Apnea occurs when you fail to breathe for 10 seconds or more while you are asleep. It is very bad for your overall health, because if you are not breathing, even for a few seconds, your oxygen level drops which is then detected by your brain, and in order to save your life, your brain triggers stress hormones like adrenalin to get your heart pumping fast and wake you up. While it does save your life, it also shocks you awake and makes it very hard to go back to sleep. This is also very bad for your heart and cardiovascular system, and can cause many other medical complications, such as brain damage, hypertension, cardiac problems, stroke, and even death.

People that suffer from sleep apnea end up on a never ending cycle of poor sleep, never being fully rested, hightened stress hormones, fatique, and other problems, and they can’t ever get fully recovered, because good sleep is what we need to recover and restore our bodies. People that have sleep apnea often develop cardiac problems, one of the nations biggest killers, because this never ending cycle of stress and lack of deep sleep takes its toll. Medical research used to think that it was only obese patients that had sleep apnea, and while obesity is a higher risk factor for sleep apnea, it has now been found that 50% of people who have sleep apnea are not obese.

So even if you are not overweight, if you experience tiredness, poor sleep, high stress, snoring, and wanting to take naps during the day, it is a good idea to at least get the tests done and get your airways and sleep checked out.

Q:How can I tell if I have sleep Apnea or not?

A: The best way we have is with with what is called a “sleep study”, where you go to a special testing place that is set up with a bed, and you have electrodes placed on your chest and head similar to when you have an EKG, and while you are asleep everything is monitored. That is the gold standard of a scientific test, and is covered by most insurance companies. For some faster initial feedback, try our free tests here:

Click here to take the Quick 5 question Apnea Snoring quiz ( Snoring can often be a warning sign of sleep apnea and this is a very fast test to do online )

Click here to take the Berlin Sleep Apnea Questionnaire.  ( This is a little longer test but still less than 15 questions, a little more in depth, but very fast to do. )

Click here to take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale Test ( Many people suffering from sleep apnea feel tired, exhausted, or groggy during the day, because their sleep apnea is preventing them from getting a good nights rest. This test measures how you feel during the day and your level of tiredness. )

There is a form you can fill out at the bottom of this page, or you can simply call us at (318) 797-3505 and schedule an examination to be done either alone or at the same time as any dental visit like a cleaning, etc. We can refer you to other physicians as well as a sleep study facility if you need it.

 

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

Q:How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

A: First, we examine you to see if you have any physical blockages in your airways as a first step. Next, we send you to do what is called a “sleep study”, the best scientific test that we have. When you go for your sleep study, what they do is have a bed for you to sleep in overnight that is as comfortable as possible, and you are hooked up in a similar way that you would be for taking an EKG, the basic heart test, and a breathing mask. Now, when you actually fall asleep a technician can determine any irregularities in your breathing, heartbeat, or oxygen levels, plus determine how much extra air to give you that stops the apneas. That will be your prescription for the settings you need when you use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine.

Q:What is a CPAP machine?

A: A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is a small machine that sits by your bed and with a mask that you wear, gently sends a certain amount of extra air to you, which is just enough to urge you to breathe. With the right settings, it can ensure you drastically reduce or eliminate your apneas, allow you to get a good nights rest, and greatly improve your overall health.

Q:I tried a CPAP machine before and I hated it. Is there any other alternative?

A: While the CPAP machine is definitely the most proven and effective medical device out there for people with sleep apnea, approximately 25-50% don’t or won’t use it, for a variety of reasons.

If you find yourself in this category, or want something smaller, easier, and easier to travel with, there are several approved devices that we can fit you with that greatly help with giving you unobstructed breathing. Note that unobstructed breathing is not exactly the same thing as true sleep apnea, where the patient can just stop breathing even with unobstructed airways. Nevertheless, these devices are not that expensive and can greatly help your breathing at night, and even reduce apneas quite a bit in many patients.

Q:What is the next step?

A: The first most important step is to schedule with us to come in and let us check your airways. We can do this anytime or in conjunction with other dental procedures. Then depending on what we find, we can send you on for your sleep study or get a device made for you. Schedule an Appointment with us today!

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Other useful Sleep Apnea related links:
Many places list a high BMI as a risk factor for sleep apnea, to calculate your BMI, here is an easy quick calculator you can use: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2679572/