- On January 2, 2019
In 2008, the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimated that roughly 12 to 18 million Americans suffered from moderate to severe sleep apnea. The wide range in the estimate is due to the fact that many people with sleep apnea go undiagnosed. Those who suffer from sleep apnea experience the symptoms associated with the condition while still asleep, and it won’t be detected during a regular visit to a general practitioner.
But how serious is sleep apnea? Is it little more than a snoring nuisance? Or, are there far more serious side-effects of this sleeping disorder? The unfortunate truth is that sleep apnea is potentially lethal.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
There are many sleep apnea causes and they may vary depending on sex, age, and weight. Here are a few you should keep an eye out for in children and adults.
● Tumor or other growth blocking the air passage
● Birth defects, such as Pierre-Robin Syndrome and Down Syndrome
● Brain’s failure to send signals to tell your muscles to breathe while you sleep
● Relaxation of the muscles in the back of your throat, often worsened by drugs and/or alcohol
● Enlarged tonsils or adenoids (primarily in children)
● Large overbites (primarily in children)
What’s the Damage?
Sleep apnea can be a dangerous condition to live with. Here are five additional reasons sleep apnea is a serious complication.
● According to the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea correlates with higher risk of suffering from diabetes, excessive lethargy during waking hours, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, and even gout.
● According to the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort, the death rate for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea were almost twice as high as those who did not have sleep apnea. For those suffering from severe sleep apnea, the death rate was more than five times as high.
● Drivers who suffer from sleep apnea are almost five times more likely to have a motor vehicle accident than drivers who do not.
● Acid reflux is a common symptom of sleep apnea and may lead to repeated diagnoses of bronchitis. For professionals who use their voice for work, such as singers or motivational speakers, this could create a significant problem over time.
How to Diagnose Sleep Apnea
A 2009 study reported that 90 percent of Americans suffering from sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. Thankfully, some causes of sleep apnea are easily identified by your dentist. In fact, dentists have been working with other medical practitioners since the 1980s to diagnose and treat sleep apnea.
During routine dental appointments, dentists may notice anatomical irregularities in a patient that signifies potential sleep apnea. This may include a small upper airway in adults or swollen tonsils in children.
Because sleep apnea is not usually identified in other routine doctor visits, dentists play a significant role in helping to reduce the number of undiagnosed people suffering from sleep apnea.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
How sleep apnea is treated may depend on the underlying cause. However, the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea is by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. For patients who struggle to grow accustomed to the CPAP machine, there are other options available such as using oral appliances.
Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that too often claims lives. Thankfully, a routine visit to the dentist may be all you need to point you in the right direction. At All Smiles, we work directly with your primary care physician to diagnose and treat sleep apnea. Do you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from this disorder? Contact us today to schedule your next appointment and rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.