What can your role as a Dentist be in diagnosing Sleep Apnea?

How many times have we examined patients that fit the same physical profile: high blood pressure, overweight, apparent lack of good quality saliva, readily visible periodontal disease and obstructed airway? Then upon further questioning when you ask them if they have experienced morning headaches, irritability throughout the day, heartburn, insomnia and rapid weight, they will either think you a genius or a mind-reader! Doctors, you are often the first to see patients that suffer from sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is characterized by episodes of upper airway obstruction that occurs during sleep. This is most often associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation. The upper airway can become obstructed by the tonsils, adenoids, an enlarged tongue, nasal passages and quite often, excess weight in the neck, throat and abdominal region. The risk of undiagnosed sleep apnea can include irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, heart disease and unfortunately heart attack and stroke. Sleep Apnea causes daytime sleepiness that may often results in car accidents, loss of work productivity, and relationship problems. In our next two articles we will discuss the tests used to accurately diagnose Sleep Apnea and the most common treatment modalities.

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