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My Journey to Understanding Sleep Apnea

My journey into a better understanding of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and its health risks started twelve years ago. One of my patients had lived with undiagnosed OSA for many years and now suffers from severe heart issues due to his OSA. I laid awake that night thinking that if I had known more about OSA could I have made a difference in making an early referral to a sleep specialist?

Thus began the voyage of course after course trying to better understand and screen for OSA, refer to the medical profession for diagnosis, followed by treatment with a dental appliance where most appropriate.

From personal experience, I have mild OSA and treatment has changed my life for the better. More energy, no morning headaches, lower blood pressure and a better night's sleep are all benefits I've seen with treatment.

One out of every four Americans has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). 80% of those with OSA are unaware that they suffer from this serious health issue.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. You can't get enough air, which can lower the oxygen level in your blood. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don't remember it. You might snort, choke or gasp. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night, impairing your ability to reach the deep, restful phases of sleep.

The health risks associated with OSA are daytime fatigue, high blood pressure and heart problems, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dementia, liver problems, and headaches among other health issues. There are many risk factors including excessive weight, neck circumference, narrowed airway, being male, being older, family history, use of alcohol, smoking, nasal congestion among others. Another risk factor of OSA is snoring.

40% of snorers suffer from OSA. 

In recent years, there has been much discussion in the dental/sleep community that worn front teeth may be a warning sign of OSA. The speculation is that the body's defense mechanism spurred from one's inability to breathe may be bringing the lower jaw forward and putting the front teeth together. In the process, the tongue is pulled out from the back of the mouth to open the airway. This may be followed by biting down hard and tightening the neck muscles to further open the airway, thus wearing the edges of the teeth. For years, worn front teeth have been blamed on grinding due to stress, but that may not always be the root cause.

What’s the simplest way to determine if you could have sleep apnea?  Have an at-home study done. Simple and easy to do, inexpensive and very accurate all in the comforts of your own bedroom. 

Visit our website to learn more and to understand how our practice can help guide you through the process - from understanding your symptoms to easy treatment solutions.


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