Snoring—Is it More than Just a Nuisance?: Obstructive Sleep Apnea Could Pose Serious Health Problems
May 23, 2015 05:34PM
● By KAREN CHARRON
A loved one complaining about snoring could prove to be a blessing. Loud snoring can be more than just a nuisance, it can also be a sign of a serious health problem called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The National Sleep Foundation estimates that sleep apnea affects more than 18 million Americans.
Sleep apnea manifests when a person stops breathing while asleep. It may happen when air can’t make it to the lungs because of an obstruction in the airway, usually at the back of the throat. During sleep, the upper airway muscles relax and the soft tissue at the back of the throat can sag, which narrows the airway. The vibration sound of snoring is created when this obstructing soft tissue is met with air. During these periods of obstruction, the body senses that it is running out of oxygen and will try to compensate by quickening the pulse, raising blood pressure, and even causing a momentary waking to try to get oxygen. OSA sufferers are unlikely to remember the waking events, which could number in the hundreds. If the sufferer lives alone, he/she may not even be aware of his/her condition.
People with sleep apnea may experience a variety of problems, including waking up after a long night’s sleep still feeling tired. Other symptoms include reduced sexual drive, depression and compromised performance at work. If untreated, sleep apnea can lead to dangerous health conditions, including stroke, heart attack, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, fibromyalgia, acid reflux, impotence and short-term memory loss. The good news is that when OSA is adequately treated, people can sleep better, live better and, in some cases, live longer.
Dr. Dennis Nagata, of the Hawaii Center for Cosmetic & Laser Dentistry, in Honolulu, has first- hand experience with sleep apnea. He was diagnosed with OSA about 10 years ago and was told he would need to use a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine with a face mask to regulate his breathing while asleep. Because he was unable to tolerate sleeping with the CPAP device, he researched alternatives and learned there is a dental appliance that helps people that are CPAP intolerant. Knowing how lack of proper sleep causes so many health problems, he became determined to help his patients. He now screens every patient at his practice for sleep apnea.
Dr. Nagata studied OSA and was shocked at the large number of people that have this affliction. He took training to become certified to treat sleep apnea and is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). One treatment option Dr. Nagata prescribes is a dental device called the SomnoDent. This custom-made device is worn during sleep to prevent the collapse of the upper airway. It is comprised of discreet upper and lower dental plates with a unique patented fin coupling that allows normal mouth opening and closing. The SomnoDent places the mouth in a comfortable position while providing an open airway during sleep.
Since OSA is a serious medical condition, it must be diagnosed by a physician. Diagnosis is based on the results of an overnight sleep study, called a polysomnogram. Other factors of determining OSA are patient evaluation and history. Once diagnosed with OSA, the process to be fitted for a SomnoDent device includes a thorough exam of the teeth and mouth to determine suitability for this type of treatment. A bite registration and impression is then taken, and the prescription is sent to the SomnoMed’s medical device manufacturing facility. Once manufactured, Dr. Nagata’s office does a fitting and provides instructions on how to insert, remove and clean the appliance. Follow-up appointments are scheduled to be certain that the device fits and is working properly. Patients are then seen twice a year to recheck their condition.
People that suspect they may have OSA or that have a CPAP machine that they are not using, should consider calling Dr. Nagata’s office for a consultation. His office has all the systems in place for patients to get a sleep test and determine the right treatment plan. It is also a Medicare-approved provider.
Hawaii Center for Cosmetic & Laser Dentistry is located at 1520 Liliha St., Ste. 703, in Honolulu. For more information, call 808-526-0670 or visit SmilePower.net. See ads, pages 2 and 3.
Karen Charron is a freelance writer living in Oahu and a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Hawaii.