Sleep Disorders, Sleep Apnea and the Mouth

The Clarendon Dental Art team in Arlington, VA attended the annual Hinman Dental meeting this Spring in Atlanta. One of the largest dental training conventions in the country. Each of us took different courses which encompass technical advancements, direct patient care methods and practice management. At the end of the day we settle in for an hour and each shares a bit of what we learned. When we return, we spend an afternoon sharing our highlights of the courses that we each took. Then, we each set down 3 ideas (it’s hard to narrow this down) that we want to incorporate this coming year!  In the past, we manage about 95% on the incorporation.

This year I (Dr. Fresch) took a course on sleep apnea advances and dentistry, social media and an old fashioned head and neck anatomy and dissection course. More on the dissection course in another post!

Sleep disorders and apnea is a field that dentistry and medicine have been increasingly merging expertise. Some of the observations that both fields have been noting are slowly being studied and jointly treating. Some of the quick highlights of this course:

  • Children that snore and grind their teeth have sleep apnea until proven otherwise
  • Some of the ADHD issues, growth challenges, bed wetting, focus issues, and breathing related challenges are caused by sleep disturbances &/or restriction of the airways (most common is enlarged tonsils and restriction of palate growth)
  • Adults who have moderate to severe sleep apnea have a 50% higher chance of heart attack and stroke
  • Spouses that endure snoring and, then, are relieved of the challenge because their spouse wears a CPAP or appliance increase their deep sleep by 1 hour a night.

I will be attending a national sleep meeting this October to continue our education and awareness in this field.  I am readily asked about sleep studies and would like to offer some quick comments:

Dentists may not make the diagnosis for sleep apnea. We can only screen for symptoms and refer to a physician. This is much like what we do for high blood pressure and diabetes. Once the patient undergoes further testing and evaluation (usually a sleep study) the dentist can help by making a sleep appliance. (standard of care is a CPAP machine-there are dental implications to this machine as well as dental appliance-snoreguards) so it is important to have the dentist as part of this team.

Sleep studies are an important part of diagnosis. Measuring brain wave patterns are the best way to truly grade and make a diagnosis for sleep apnea. Most patients will not obtain as much sleep as they would at home. However, they will replicate the same patterns of brain waves  which are the indicators for diagnosis.

Most important take away message:  If you snore or are not getting enough sleep, PLEASE talk to your physician (or us). It could save your life!!!

Posted in: Preventative Dental Health

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