Oral Sleep Appliances Decrease Heart Attack Risk: Fewer than 10 percent of sleep apnea sufferers know they have it and are prone to health challenges, says Dr. Beth Hamann.
Feb 02, 2017 10:00AM
● By Dr. Beth Hamann
According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million people in the U.S. suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, but fewer than 10 percent have been diagnosed. One of the first signs of sleep apnea is snoring, which indicates partially obstructed breathing during sleep. The tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat and completely block the airway, which restricts the flow of oxygen. Breathing pauses can last from 10 seconds to a minute or longer, and a person with severe sleep apnea may have hundreds of breathing pauses per night.
People with obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of mortality than the normal population, a potentially crippling deterioration in daily functioning, an increased risk of high blood pressure and stroke, depression and death via accidents or in their sleep. Heart disease both causes and is the result of obstructive sleep apnea.
Treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea include a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has endorsed as scientifically approved to be the first line of treatment for those suffering from mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, and it is proving to be effective for severe cases, as well. The purpose of the oral appliance is to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 60 percent of CPAP users are still using the CPAP after a few months, meaning that the other 40 percent are not.
Professional football player Reggie White had his life cut short in 2004, when at the age of 43 he suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep. He suffered from obstructive sleep apnea, which was a contributing factor to his premature death. White had a CPAP, but his wife Sara says, “He used his mask hardly ever.” She has started the Reggie White Foundation in an effort to build awareness to the symptoms and risks of sleep apnea. Other treatment options include lifestyle changes, surgery and oral appliance therapy.
Dr. Beth Hamann, DDS, is the co-owner of the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders, in Phoenix. To schedule a sleep apnea screening, call 602-883-1931. For more information, visit KoalaAz.com.