Why we Screen for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

We value our relationship with our patients and care about your overall health. We are now screening our patients for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Dentists play an important role in screening for this sleep disorder because most patients are seen for regular recall visits, and this provides the opportunity to examine the soft tissues in the oral cavity. There are certain physical characteristics we look for in the mouth. (large or scalloped tongue, large uvula, narrow airway and signs of tooth wear). Most people understand that long-term smoking will result in premature death. What most everyone doesn’t know is that untreated OSA will take more years from your life than long-term smoking, about 12 years in fact. More than 80% of U.S. adults who have OSA are undiagnosed. We want to help identify patients at risk for OSA, get tested and treated to improve their quality of life and lifespan.

Most people dismiss OSA or snoring as conditions that are sometimes annoying or embarrassing side effects of sleep. Before you discount your snoring as nothing out of the ordinary, consider this: People whose snoring is caused by severe OSA have a 40% greater chance of premature death than their peers. That’s because this sleep disorder is related to a host of health problems, from heart disease to depression.

You may have heard about OSA before, and an image like the one on the left comes to mind. Dentists can provide the recommended (by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine) treatment for mild and moderate sleep apnea with a simple oral appliance (image on right).

Now that we’ve got you thinking about OSA treatment in a different way, we want to talk with you about the significant health risks associated with OSA.

Why does OSA increase the risk of having other health problems?

Studies suggest that having OSA raises your heart rate and increases blood pressure, placing stress on the heart. This may be because apneas frequently reduce blood oxygen levels, activating the branch of the nervous system responsible for increasing heart performance. In addition, levels of chemicals rise that cause inflammation and promote elevations in blood sugar. Such inflammation can damage the heart and blood vessels. Both hypertension and diabetes increase the risk for heart disease, and the likelihood of being diagnosed with one of these illnesses increases as a result of OSA.

Significant Health Risks Associated with OSA

Premature death – because OSA is associated with a number of chronic medical conditions, studies have shown an increased likelihood of premature death. Middle-aged men appear to be at greatest risk, with the cause of death most commonly related to cardiovascular disease. Football star Reggie White, Hall of Fame defensive end for 3 NFL teams, died of cardiac and pulmonary problems that were likely intensified by his Sleep Apnea. He was only 43 yrs old. People with OSA are more likely to suffer heart attacks and die in the middle of the night.

Stroke – people with Sleep Apnea are 3x more likely to suffer a stroke. Almost 70% of people who have had a stroke have Sleep Apnea.

Heart Attack – people with Sleep Apnea may have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack. High Blood Pressure – 50% of people with high blood pressure may also have Sleep Apnea and
Sleep Apnea is a common cause of high blood pressure.

Type 2 Diabetes – 58% of patients with Type 2 Diabetes may have Sleep Apnea.

Obesity – 77% of people who are obese (BMI >30)may have Sleep Apnea.

Depression – Sleep Apnea doubles the risk of developing depression.

Motor Vehicle Accidents – people with Sleep Apnea are seven times more likely to have a motor vehicle accident.

Job Impairment – people with Sleep Apnea are three times more likely to suffer a work- related injury or fatality.

Erectile Dysfunction and Loss of Sexual Functions – Many patients with the most severe forms of OSA have difficulties with intimate and sexual relationships.

Snoring is Dangerous for Your Health

We value our relationship with our patient’s and care about your overall health. As your Dental care provider, Dentist have the prime opportunity to play an important role in screening patient’s for a serious sleep disorder called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. We most often are examining the oral cavity once or twice yearly, so this gives us the chance to examine the soft tissues and evaluate the risk for sleep apnea. (large tongue, scalloped tongue, tooth grinding, recessed jaw and airway). It’s important for you to know that your snoring isn’t something you should dismiss or take lightly. Snoring is dangerous to your health. Click here to read more…