The Sleep Apnea Trend and Its Threat to Public Health

More than 25 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and many of these people are not even aware they have this potentially life-threatening problem.

The National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project (NHSAP) is a joint effort between the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The NHSAP has been hard at work raising awareness, not just about how serious sleep apnea is but that it is a problem on the rise.

Health warnings sometimes fall on deaf ears, but disasters that claim human lives force people to take notice. Consider the National Transportation Safety Board, which claimed national headlines in early 2018 upon reporting that undiagnosed sleep apnea had led to the fatigue that caused engineer errors in two terrible crashes. A New Jersey Transit crash in 2016 killed a person and injured 110, and a Long Island Rail Road crash in 2018 injured 108.

Severe daytime sleepiness is not an unusual symptom for people who suffer from untreated obstructive sleep apnea. That lack of alertness is associated not just with rail engineer mistakes but with serious accidents in a multitude of industries where such errors can be deadly. In fact, one notable study found that workplace accidents were two times more common among OSA sufferers. Such concerns are not limited to just work environments, however. Another prominent study found that patients suffering from OSA were 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident than the average person.

Sleep Apnea Overview

Sleep apnea is a common, chronic, and grave health disorder that causes irregular breathing cessation during sleep. Sleep apnea manifests in different ways. The most prevalent form is obstructive sleep apnea. OSA occurs when the soft tissue in the throat relaxes and blocks the air passage. Repeated cessation can reduce oxygen levels by as much as 4 percent and partially wake the sufferer, which prevents the deeper sleep required for a good rest. Such pauses vary in length based on the person and the severity of the condition and can last a few seconds or extend for more than a minute.

The lack of deeper sleep is the primary reason sufferers often feel lethargic and inattentive throughout the day. In addition, snoring and teeth grinding, formally called bruxism, is common among sleep apnea sufferers and can further disrupt rest. Sleepiness is not the only risk. All of these symptoms mentioned can result in serious health complications if left untreated.

People who suffer from OSA are at higher risk of hypertension, diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and chronic acid reflux. Overall well-being can be affected systemically and often in an indirect or at least nonobvious manner. Quality of life can suffer not just due to physical maladies but due to how a lack of proper sleep can take a toll on mental health and thus lead to behavioral, cognitive, and emotional issues.

Sleep Apnea Indicators

If you have ever awakened gasping for air or been told by a loved one that you snore, then you should visit a dentist that specializes in sleep apnea. Many people are unaware that dentists are the first line of defense against OSA and often in a superior position to diagnose it. Receding gums, tooth enamel wear, and even cavities can all be telltale signs that you are affected. A specialized understanding of the mouth and jaw helps a dentist to identify the soft tissues that often cause OSA.

Common signs of undiagnosed sleep apnea that you or a loved one may recognize include:

  • Chronic exhaustion — There are many factors in our lives that can cause fatigue, but if temporary circumstances and other health conditions have been ruled out, OSA may be the cause.
  • Snoring, gasping and choking — Loud and excessive snoring are often sleep apnea indicators. Gasping and choking strongly enough to wake is a serious indication of a problem.
  • Morning headaches — You can wake with headaches in the morning due to grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw but also because your sleep apnea is causing oxygen deprivation.
  • Frequent nighttime urination — As you remain in a lighter sleep, your body is more prone to inform you of the need to urinate rather than waiting until morning as it usually would.
  • Mood swings and memory problems — Not getting enough deep sleep can make you moody, bad-tempered, depressed, and so forth as well as cause you to be forgetful.
  • Feeling in need of a nap — If you experience chronic fatigue that cannot be explained by the medications you are taking, then exhaustion from sleep apnea is a likely cause.

The Dangers of Living With Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea

Our bodies require deep sleep in order to restore themselves. When sleep apnea interferes with that rejuvenation, your brain, heart, other organs, and muscles become less capable of fending off infections and other issues. That makes you much more vulnerable to numerous maladies, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Gum disease
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chronic acid reflux
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease

Treating Sleep Apnea

Dr. Jeffrey D. Clark is an expert that can diagnose and treat both sleep apnea and sleep bruxism. He and his entire team at Scottsdale Cosmetic Dentistry Excellence have helped many patients improve their quality of life and overcome these two conditions, which are closely linked. In fact, most patients who grind their teeth do so because they are suffering from sleep apnea. By treating your sleep apnea effectively and efficiently with general dentistry treatments, Dr. Clark can restore your revitalizing sleep, improve your quality of life and protect your teeth and gums from the damage that bruxism can cause.

Oral Appliance Therapies

Oral appliances are among the ways that Scottsdale Cosmetic Dentistry Excellence can treat you for your sleep apnea condition. Such guards can be used to treat basic snoring as well as obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Clark makes each guard specific to the patient so that it fits precisely and comfortably. Your guard will fit over your upper and lower teeth in order to position the jaw correctly and ensure that the tongue remains where it should be and does not block your air passage.

Oral appliance therapy is a non-invasive treatment. It is convenient, comfortable, and quiet. Your guard will force your jaw into an optimal forward position, which helps to maintain an open airway. Wearing your guard regularly can greatly reduce sleep apnea episodes, and since there is a correlation between bruxism and sleep apnea episodes, wearing your guard can protect your smile as well.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

You deserve to sleep well and wake feeling rested and with a confident smile. Dr. Clark and his entire team at Scottsdale Cosmetic Dentistry Excellence want to help you achieve that. A lack of proper sleep can negatively affect your appearance, relationships, overall health, energy levels, and ability to enjoy life. Early diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea and sleep bruxism are imperative to your well-being. If you suffer from excess fatigue or have been told you snore or grind your teeth, contact our office today at 480 585 1853 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Clark. Take action today because that simple step can lead to a much happier and longer life.

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