Dr. Pat Stoker – What In The World Can This Dentist Do To Treat Sleep Apnea?
Troubled By Your CPAP Mask?
Dr. Pat Stoker
Many people are surprised to learn that, as a dentist, I provide treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in cooperation with physicians specializing in sleep medicine. This type of sleep apnea occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse on the back of the throat during sleep, reducing your body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen depletion can cause serious health problems such as severe stress on the heart and blood vessels.
The symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea include excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping and choking, dry mouth and sore throat, morning headache, difficulty concentrating during the day, mood changes (such as depression or irritability), high blood pressure, nighttime sweating, and decreased libido. Individuals of any age can develop sleep apnea. Children with undiagnosed conditions may exhibit the signs of ADHD, or poor school performance. Living with these symptoms can undermine your quality of life and even present serious health problems.
People suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea may find relief from Oral Appliance Therapy, also called a Mandibular Advancement Splint. The oral appliance repositions the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate, and uvula and stabilizes the lower jaw and tongue to keep your airway open during sleep.
Although the most common method of Obstructive Sleep Apnea treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), a machine that provides constant forced air flow through a facemask, many people can’t use it comfortably. One of my patients had so much difficulty tolerating his CPAP machine that he rarely used it and was getting little sleep. He had several near accidents while driving because he was so fatigued. However, after receiving an oral appliance he was sleeping better and driving safer.
Oral Appliance Therapy is less obtrusive than CPAP. Most of the patients I have treated are seeking an oral appliance because they are unable to tolerate CPAP therapy. An oral appliance is comfortable, quiet, and easily portable. The oral appliance can fit into the palm of your hand. Patients who travel appreciate how easy it is to pack and carry an oral appliance, in contrast to a CPAP machine. Studies indicate that there is a higher degree of patient acceptance and adherence with Oral Appliance Therapy compared to CPAP. My patients prefer the oral appliance because it improves their quality of life.
The failure to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea may result in serious health consequences.
- Individuals with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are also more likely to develop diabetes.
- Between 40% – 80% of stroke victims suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
- People with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are four times more likely to have a heart attack.
- If you have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you are twice as likely to die in your sleep and seven times more likely to have a motor vehicle accident.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea patients are more likely to experience depression.
- Individuals with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are also more likely to experience sexual impotence.
Many patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea also clench or grind their teeth. This tooth damage also requires treatment with an oral appliance to prevent tooth loss. Patients who use CPAP treatment are also likely to clench and grind and, if so, also need protection from excessive wear and damage by using an oral night guard appliance.
If you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, consult your primary care physician to find a qualified sleep specialist. Ask your sleep specialist about the advantages and disadvantages of CPAP and Oral Appliance Therapy. My experiences treating Obstructive Sleep Apnea show that there are effective, tolerable therapies that can help you to sleep better and improve your quality of life.
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