Healthy Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS – This column was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, August 16, 2018
It’s August. The lazy days of summer include basking in the sun and possibly falling asleep, say, on the beach. Can you picture yourself there? So did you fall asleep due to the relaxing sounds of the ocean? That could be perfectly normal and understandable.
Or, is daytime sleepiness affecting your life? Daytime sleepiness presents in different ways: you need to take a nap in the afternoon, you fall asleep in a car (as a passenger or even as the driver), or you doze off during a meeting. Daytime sleepiness could be a sign that you have a sleep-related breathing disorder. Yes, I am referring to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and the ripple effect it has on your health.
At a recent conference on Dental Sleep Medicine, various health professionals presented information in their area of expertise on the subject of OSA. ENT’s, nutritionists, psychiatrists, orthodontists and dentists were among the presenters and the audience. In this Healthy Smiles column, I will share two main topics: the ripple effect that untreated OSA has on your health and how sleep-related breathing disorders such as snoring and OSA can be treated by a team of health professionals.
With OSA, your upper airway is partially or completely collapsed, causing a decrease of air or oxygen to your lungs. With decreased blood oxygen levels, your heart, brain and other organs are affected. Also, your behavioral health is influenced: Poor sleep is linked to irritability, anxiety and depression. So consider the ripple effects: Decreased oxygen affects not only your physical health, but your behavioral health as well.
Have you heard of ghrelin and leptin? A study showed that if you receive less than four hours of sleep for just two days, your body produces a 28% increase in ghrelin (a hunger hormone or the hormone that increases your appetite) and an 18% reduction in leptin (a hormone that suppresses your appetite). Simply put, a pattern of less than restful sleep often results in over-eating, combined with a decreased interest in exercise. So now we’re talking about more ripple effects from OSA: weight gain, decreased exercise capability, decreased metabolism and an impaired endocrine function.
Some ripple effects have the potential to be deadly, not only to OSA patients but others. At least 20% of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by sleepy drivers. Did you know that the medical exam for commercial drivers includes screening for OSA?
OSA can set this entire chain of health effects into motion, even if you have no recollection of your sleep being interrupted. Additionally, the snoring sounds can be very loud; so loud that a bed partner’s sleep is interrupted and their health is now affected.
OSA’s ripple effects, compounded, present a grim picture! I’m going to offer some hope now, that with one change—treating OSA—these ripples can be reversed. Think about how different your life could be, simply by seeking treatment for this one health issue.
How do you know if you have OSA? See your physician for a face-to-face consultation to get started. If you are diagnosed with OSA, treatment could involve CPAP use, professional help from an ENT, or an oral appliance by a dentist who practices dental sleep medicine. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is the recommended treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP includes a face mask that must be worn during sleep, as well as tubing and a constantly running motor. For patients who cannot tolerate CPAP or choose not to use that treatment, oral appliance therapy may be the next treatment of choice. Provided by select dentists like myself, who have a dental sleep medicine practice, this treatment uses a custom-fit device to keep the airway open by advancing the mandible forward. The oral appliance keeps the patient’s airway open and provides a healthy night’s sleep.
The bottom line: If you or a loved one is often sleepy during the day, please have a conversation about OSA with your physician. The results could be life-changing!
Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles, a cosmetic and family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg. She is an Accreditation Candidate of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow Gettysburg Smiles on Facebook, or call 717-339-0033.