diagnosisAccording to the American Sleep Foundation, more than 12 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and it’s estimated conservatively that 10 million Americans remain undiagnosed. Are you one of them?

When the muscles in the jaws, soft palate and the tongue become too relaxed during sleep, they can sag and partially or completely block your airway. As you struggle to breathe, your body becomes distressed and you become partially awake, nearly every time this event occurs. These episodes can occur hundreds of times each night, keeping you from reaching the deep, restorative sleep your body requires and putting a great deal of stress on your heart. Since this can have serious consequences, we urge anyone who is concerned about the quality of their sleep to contact their physician or a dental professional with advanced training in dental sleep medicine.

What should a Dental Sleep Exam Include?

At a minimum, your dental sleep exam should include:

• A dentist who is certified in dental sleep medicine
• Medical history
• Dental history
• Personal & Family History
• Physical Examination
• Pharygometer/Rhinometer Test to evaluate your airway

In addition to studying your medical and dental histories, we will examine the soft tissues in your mouth and nose. The purpose of this clinical evaluation is to determine the degree of laxity in those tissues, and to find out how they may be obstructing your breathing while you sleep.

Since sleep-disordered breathing can also occur as a result of improper alignment of the jaw and structures within the mouth, we also examine the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) as an important part of every sleep patient evaluation. Depending on the complexity and severity of your sleep concern, we may also recommend that you seek a referral to an overnight sleep lab for a diagnostic polysomnogram (i.e., a sleep study) in order to confirm your diagnosis. If that should be necessary, we will assist your in the process by providing you with names of sleep physicians and sleep labs that we work with regularly.

Who will benefit?

Anyone who suffers from non-restful sleep will benefit from a thorough exam and, if indicated, treatment by a dentist with advanced training in dental sleep medicine. Today, 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders according to Carl E Hunt, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. Sleep disorders are most common in middle-aged men and, in particular, those who are overweight. However, women and children can suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, too.

Early Diagnosis is key.

If sleep disorders go undiagnosed and untreated, their effects on health can be far more serious than simply feeling tired and irritable. For example, patients with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are at:

• 2x the risk of developing high blood pressure
• 3x the risk of heart attack
• 4x risk of stroke