Sleep apnea, the cessation of breathing during sleep, is a common problem that affects both adults and children. Did you know that certain sleep apnea types can be treated by your dentist or oral surgeon? Your doctor may be a part of the diagnosis but the dentist can be part of the treatment!
The National Institutes of Health estimate that more than 12 million Americans have sleep apnea, most often undetected or misdiagnosed. In fact, conservative estimates suggest that only 16 percent of sleep apnea sufferers receive treatment.
Untreated sleep apnea affects your well-being. Sleep apnea may contribute to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction, as well as to memory and concentration impairment. Increased stress and weight gain have also been attributed to sleep loss. Since sleep apnea reduces the quality of your sleep and contributes to daytime sleepiness, driving becomes more dangerous. In fact, sleep apnea is a leading cause of car accidents.
Although you may be aware that your sleep is disturbed, more likely your symptoms will be noticed first by family members. The two most commonly identified sleep apnea symptoms are gasping for air or choking during sleep, or loud snoring. Many people who have sleep apnea also grind their teeth, and have stomach acid problems like GERD (gastro-intestinal reflux disease). GERD is often undiagnosed and untreated, only seen by your dentist as erosion on your teeth where your teeth don’t “touch” in grinding or chewing.
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