Common sleeping problems could be a serious form of sleep apnea

Calling all snorers, teeth grinders, people who twitch at night or just get up to go to the bathroom, it's time to end being the butt of your family jokes.

Chances are if you have been accused of sawing logs or waking the dead and keeping others awake, it's not your fault and could be the result of a serious form of sleep apnea.

How we sleep may tell our doctors and dentists more about our health that we could have ever imagined.

In a special Medical Moment we will take a look at the often overlooked problem behind a lot of our health woes.

If you snore, grind your teeth or twitch all night long, you could be among the 12 million Americans suffering from a serious form of sleep apnea, called obstructive sleep disorder.

Many people, like Jerry Scott, 56, did not have a clue that what he was feeling during the day was linked to how he was sleeping at night.

“It never even occurred to me that I had sleep apnea,” says Jerry Scott who suffered from obstructive sleep apnea.

While those who snore, or grind their teeth, called bruxism, are often made fun of, Dr. Klauer says untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues like, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, heart attack, diabetes, depression, worsening of ADHD. New data is showing even Alzheimer's.

So Jerry's visit to the dental chair six months ago may have saved his life.

Dr. Daniel Klauer who did a mini residency in dental sleep uses a checklist of health questions, including questions about sleep in his routine dental exam.

“We see a lot of patients who are suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Narcolepsy, and sleep related bruxism,” says Daniel G. Klauer, DDS, part of the Mahoney Family Dentistry. “Usually people who snore it's a telltale sign of a sleep disorder, breathing and that's the kind of stuff we use to send them off to a physician to get diagnosed.”

That's exactly what Dr. Klauer did with Jerry. Sent him to see his doctor who recommended a sleep study which found Jerry had severe obstructive sleep apnea.

“I was going to an internist to have blood work done,” said Jerry. “I knew I was abnormally fatigued. I mean I felt like I could fall asleep at the wheel driving to work in the morning.”

While Dr. Klauer says a c-pap machine, a mask that provides respiratory ventilation through a mask while people sleep is still the gold standard, slowly the use of dental appliances are making inroads, especially for someone like Jerry who could not tolerate wearing a mask.

“There is over 100 different dental devices we can use for sleep apnea or snoring,” explains Dr. Klauer.

If a doctor determines the dental implant will work just as well as a c-pap machine, Dr. Klauer will do a comprehensive exam, including 3D imaging, to make sure the patient will benefit from a dental device.

For Jerry, they were right on.

“Jerry's device is a two part component,” says Dr. Klauer. “This goes on the top arch and this going on the bottom and it prevents his jaw from sagging back into position that closes off his airway.

And Jerry says after one night that he had slept better and much better after three nights.

“It's like a miracle,” says Jerry. “I mean I feel 20 years younger. I have no fatigue. I concentrate better. It's absolutely a miracle and may have saved my life in the long fun.”

And if you are one of those people who can never remember a dream, you may too have a sleep disorder that is prevented you from getting the all-important REM sleep.

“I had forgotten what it was like to dream and now I have long, involved, rich detailed dreams,” says Jerry.

And when he slips off into la la land, he knows that he is sleeping soundly and safely and probably adding years to his life.

Doctor Klauer stresses the c-pap machine is still the gold standard for treatment but sadly there is only about 20 percent compliance with people using it consistently. Compliance with dental devices is about 90 percent.

Still, Doctor Klauer stresses the diagnosis and recommendation must come first from a sleep study. And, because sleep disorders are medical problems, most insurance plans do cover the costs.


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