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Dental Approach to Treating Sleep Apnea

by Wesley Delanoy

The holistic dental practice of Dr. Fred Dreher, in Ballston Spa, is now treating obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is usually characterized by a pause in breathing for 10 seconds or longer while asleep, which can decrease blood oxygen level and contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, weight gain and even death.

One in five adults suffer from a form of sleep apnea, but are currently undiagnosed. This kind of sleep-disordered breathing can lead to serious side effects, including drowsy driving, which causes fatal car crashes. Other factors include muscle relaxation in the throat during sleep that can minimize or completely shut off the airway, which is a major cause of obstructive sleep apnea. Signs of this include excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, lack of concentration, dry mouth and/or sore throat and drowsy driving.

In addition, 48 percent of diabetic patients have obstructive sleep apnea, as well. There is an easy screening for this serious condition to determine whether patients are at risk of this life-threatening condition. A two-night home sleep test, which doesn’t involve being hooked up to uncomfortable wires, takes place sleeping in a familiar bed. This factor benefits the patient immensely, giving a more accurate record of their comfortable nights’ sleep.

The test determines a patient’s oxygenation, pulse rate, average breaths per minute, number of apnea events, amount of occurring snoring and much more. To treat patients, an easy, portable dental sleep appliance that resembles a retainer is placed in the mouth before bed and taken out upon waking. It allows slight, incremental advancement of the lower jaw to allow the airway to fully open and accommodate a sufficient amount of air to the lungs and void obstruction in the airway.

Traditionally, those diagnosed would obtain a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which many report as uncomfortable, bulky, loud and cumbersome for themselves and their sleeping partner. This smaller device can rule out the need for a CPAP machine, which studies show to be very difficult for patients to maintain compliance. In fact, 20 to 50 percent of individuals using the CPAP stop use after one year, while only 5 percent discontinue use of an oral device after one year.

Dreher and his team are now treating qualifying patients in this more convenient, yet effective way, with screening and sleep tests administered in the privacy of the patient’s own home instead of a laboratory. For inquiries and appointments, call 518-885-6185. For more information, visit NoMercDoc.com.