During my recent travel, I overheard an announcement at the Airport that someone had lost their CPAP machine. It was comical for a moment, but then the reality of this common problem in my dental world became apparent. “Do you snore?” This seems to be the most annoying question during our hygiene exam. As long as I have asked this question during cleaning visits, I admit that I have underestimated the effect of poor sleep and airway obstruction amongst most adults and children up until now.
29 million Americans have sleep related breathing disorders. It is becoming very significant amongst children of all ages and young adults. Seasonal allergies, frequent sinus infections, poor sleep, fatigue all day, and overall poor health - all could be related to snoring and sleep apnea. Children breathing poorly affects brain development and overall growth. That alone should be the reason enough for all of us dental practitioners to make this a vital part of our exams and diagnosis. Diagnosing conditions like tongue tie, small oral cavity with a large tongue, kids with chronic colds and flus and referring to proper specialists whether an ENT, orthodontist or a speech therapist is crucial.
Modern research has linked Sleep Apnea and Airway Obstruction to myriad of illnesses like Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, IBS, Stunted Growth amongst children, ADHD, Hyperactivity in kids just to name a few. The current modality of treatment with Melatonin and other sleep aids might just be ineffective and/or alleviating the symptoms only as well as forming some addictive habits as well. The other option of CPAP comes with its own challenges of compliance and consistency. Our Apple Watches and Fitbits are definitely reporting the lack of REM and nREM sleep and makes it a great conversation with your Dentist since we are the ones looking in the mouths most frequently.
By understanding this issue of sleep apnea and having open conversations about it at your dental visits, we have the ability to not only treat the symptoms of Apnea and Snoring but genuinely change the quality of Life through better breathing and better sleep.
So next time you are up for your cleaning visit, lets talk about YOUR sleep concerns and figure out a simple Dental device that might help you stop snoring and sleep better.