Sleep Can Be a Killer: Get Treated for Sleep Apnea

We all know what it's like not to be able to sleep.  We get irritable, cranky, and stressed-out.  But research is finding that sleep isn't just something we do at night.  It's something that could kill us, too.  

OK, OK, so I'm getting dramatic.  But my husband, who's a dentist, has been branching out into the treatment of sleep apnea, a disorder where you stop breathing up to hundreds of times a night.  In some cases, you can even die.

“There is growing awareness of the role of sleep in health, disease and performance,” newswise.com quotes Howard Hindin, D.D.S., co-founder of The American Academy of Physiological Medicine and Dentistry (AAPMD). “Upper airway obstruction and resulting sleep disordered breathing can be a factor in heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes in adults, as well as childhood development, learning and behavior. This is especially important for children, who will benefit most.”

“There can be serious health concerns for individuals with sleep-disordered breathing and airway obstruction may be the root cause,” explained Dr. Michael Gelb, co-founder of the AAPMD. “An integrated approach that combines dental and medical examination, diagnosis and treatment is producing positive results in patients of all ages.”

My husband creates mouth devices that patients wear at night to increase airflow.  Those with apnea find their airflow blocked when the muscles around the tongue and throat relax to cause a blockage that air can't get through. It's also a major cause of snoring.

A lot of people don't even know they have this problem because you're asleep when it happens. But partners usually do.  It can be hard to share a bedroom with someone who has sleep apnea because their snoring is often so loud it's disruptive.

In the past the most popular device for sleep apnea was the continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, which blows air down your throat at night to keep your airway open.  But many find these uncomfortable to wear so other devices have been developed, like mouth guards and dental appliances.  

Devices include: 

  • Mandibular advancement device (MAD). These look like a mouth guard used in sports. The devices snap over the upper and lower dental arches. Hinges make it possible for the lower jaw to be eased forward. This stabilizes the tongue and soft palate to keep the airway open.
  • Tongue retaining device. This is sort of like a splint that holds the tongue in place to keep the airway open. It is not prescribed as often as the MAD. People often need more time to get used to these devices and don’t find them to be as comfortable.
According to webmd.com, more than 18 million people suffer from this disorder. If you are one, get to your dentist as quickly as you can.  



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