Ever since I went to listen to Dr. Kent Smith in Dallas two weeks ago, I have had Dallas on my Mind. Dr. Smith showed me, convincingly, that sleep apnea is a national health hazard. I am now seeing this within my own patient population. The first patient that I saw Tuesday morning confided that he does not share the same room with his wife due to his snoring. Another patient told me that he cannot take a nap because he cannot breathe easily in many different positions. He sleeps with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) but finds it difficult to live comfortably with it. This past Friday, a patient told us she was very tired. Her husband had kept her up most of the night with his snoring. My office performed a few sleep studies this week with clear indications of how important the airway is during sleep.
Dental schools, for the most part, do not delve into this most important area of dentistry and medicine. What a shame! One would think that they would be right on top of a disease (sleep apnea) that has such vast implications such as heart attacks, hypertension, diabetes, depression and daytime sleepiness that can lead to car and work accidents. It’s no joke.
I wonder how many Americans look at snoring more of a nuisance than an actual pathological problem. Yes, snoring is a nuisance to the sleep partner, but that is only a very small part of the problem. It usually is a serious problem for the snorer because of obstruction of the airway that leads to a lack of oxygen to the body. Heart rate can increase when the snorer is not breathing and the body yearns for more oxygen. Let me tell you this: All you have to view is a video of someone sleeping, snoring, exhaling and then a sustained respiratory pause for a period of time. I cannot convey how frightening this really is.
So, if you know someone that snores…get a sleep study. If someone is seriously tired during the day….get a sleep study. If a spouse is concerned that his/her partner is having a problem during sleep…get a sleep study. Today, a sleep study is easier to get than ever. If not performed at a hospital/sleep center, it can be performed easily in the comfort of your own home.
Thanks to Ray Charles, I don’t have Georgia on my mind, but I do have Sleep Apnea on my mind. You know, cosmetic dentistry and porcelain veneers certainly have their place in the dental office. As a member of the AACD (American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry), I certainly value the cosmetic aspects of what I do. Correcting the smile is certainly important. But if you can also improve the overall systemic health of the patient with the recognition of an existing problem such as sleep apnea and snoring, then treat it, now that is really something.
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