There are 18 million adults in the United States that deal with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in some form or another. With numbers like that it is little wonder that we live in a society that is increasing reliant on sleep aids and energy drinks.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where your upper airways can become blocked while you sleep which can cause breathing to stop and start abruptly during sleep. In severe cases, not only is the quality of sleep affected, but other conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and depression can occur as well.
While sleep specialists and doctors are the only ones who can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, dentists play an important role in screening as one study has found.
The Skinny of the Study
For a new study recently published in the Saudi Medical Journal, researchers examined 200 patients in clinics at the University of Dammam College of Dentistry in Saudi Arabia and had them complete the Berlin Questionnaire which is a screening assessment for obstructive sleep apnea.
The patients were also screen for other factors such as blood pressure, body weight, and the size of their tongue, tonsils, and uvula. The researchers found that 23% of those 200 patients screened were at risk for obstructive sleep apnea with 80% of those at risk being male.
What That Means for Dentists
Generally speaking, dentists are going to be the only people who are regularly looking at your tongue and tonsils. If dentists know to look for enlarged tonsils and tongues, they can suggest that their patients schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist. Treatment for sleep apnea can also help patients cut down on behaviors that put their oral health at risk as well such as drinking sugary drinks or snacking to keep awake.
If you or a loved one are snoring excessively at night, why not ask your dentist about sleep apnea at your next visit? While they cannot diagnose sleep apnea they can recommend that you visit with a sleep specialist, and if you are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea they can help fit you with a dental appliance which can help alleviate your blocked airway without the use of CPAP.