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How Well Do You Sleep?

June 12, 2012

I just got back from the annual American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine conference and was amazed at the amount of new research being done regarding sleep. I took a ton of notes and want to share everything I learned with you, but I think it will be too overwhelming for one blog so I am going to divide it up over the next few weeks.

I'm going to do a series that addresses the following topics:

• general information related to sleep
• children and sleep
• geriatrics and sleep
• diseases associated with sleep disturbances

First, I'll answer the question that many people ask me: why, as a dentist, do you even care about sleep? Very simply, we all need sleep and when it's interrupted, for whatever reason, it affects our overall health dramatically. Because our practice focuses on prevention and education, we discuss sleep with our patients. Additionally, dentists are in a unique position to work with sleep physicians in making oral appliances that eliminate snoring and treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

One of the most common sleep disorders is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where breathing is interrupted many times a night due to a blockage or collapse of the airway. People may stop breathing for 10-60 seconds, hundreds of time a night. This stoppage leads to problems in many areas of the body and is linked with an increased risk for: high blood pressure, depression, stroke, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart failure and impotence. OSA is treated with either a mask called CPAP that blows air and prevents collapse of the airway or an oral appliance that repositions the jaw and opens the airway.

Interesting new research shows:

• OSA patients treated with either oral appliance therapy or CPAP were able to reduce their high blood pressure medications after one year of use. Because high blood pressure is common with OSA, I always suggest that patients with it evaluate their sleep to determine if they have OSA.

• Custom-made oral appliances to treat both snoring and sleep apnea fit better and, therefore, are more comfortable. The reason this is important is because the more comfortable the appliance, the more compliant a person will be in wearing the appliance.

• People who suffer from sleep disorders are more sensitive to pain. This is especially important for chronic pain sufferers - perhaps correcting sleep patterns will decrease pain levels.

• Excessive wear on front teeth can happen at night while a patient is struggling to sleep. Many people deny being aware of grinding their teeth but still have wear. OSA may be the cause.

OSA is not the only sleep disorder that exists and without an evaluation by sleep physician, and many times an overnight sleep study, it is impossible to diagnose what is wrong. Other sleep disorders include restless leg syndrome, insomnia, delayed sleep response and chronic partial sleep deprivation. Some signs that point to a sleep disturbance are:

• Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
• Daytime sleepiness
• Depression
• Loud snoring that disturbs the sleep of others
• Difficulty concentrating
• Gasping for air during sleep
• Waking up with a bad taste in your mouth
• Chronic morning headaches

If you believe you have issues with sleep, I suggest contacting a sleep physician or discussing your concerns with your doctor.
For more information, visit: http://www.aadsm.org/whatisdentalsleepmedicine.aspx, http://www.ahsleepcenters.com/
For any additional questions, please contact our office at 973-377-6500 or info@adamsdentalnj.com.

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