Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Snore no more, thanks to your dentist?
A recent USA Today article reported that the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines is up 96% nationwide since 2004.
I'm not sure if that means our sleep quality has plummeted in just 4 short years, or if the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries have recognized what I've recognized...that we're sleeping a whole lot less than we used to...and should. Problem is, these industries appear to be viewing this alarming trend as an amazing profit center instead of a huge problem we need to solve in less invasive ways...and they've gone after it full force.
I do know that people who work unusual and erratic hours are more prone to sleep disorders. So anyone reading this blog is likely to be high-risk for having this kind of problem.
I don't know about you, but heading off to bed every night feeling like I've just left the wardrobe room for "Top Gun" doesn't sound like a long-term solution for sleep apnea. As the USA Today article states, sleep disorders are associated with a whole host of other serious problems. So they cannot be ignored. But I just can't accept that these awful masks should be the first line of treatment, or the only option offered to patients, especially those who travel frequently.
Enter the dental profession!
Diane Whelan, my partner on this blog, recently introduced me to Dr. Michael Simmons, a dentist near her, who offers some interesting and more viable options. Dr. Simmons is the Director of Pre-doctoral studies in Dental Sleep Medicine at UCLA, so the topic of sleep disorders is a focus of his practice.
Dr. Simmons provides a CPAP option called Oral Appliance Therapy, or OAT. The device is similar to a retainer, worn at night to help reposition the tongue, which serves to open the airway. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine actually considers OAT to be the best alternative treatment to CPAP for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.
There are over-the-counter devices purported to be equally effective, but Dr. Simmons advises that studies are showing that in order for these devices to be effective, custom fitting by a trained dentist needs to be part of the protocol. A one-size-fits-all device is not likely to help.
For blog readers working in aviation, the nature of your job automatically places you at risk for sleep disorders. On the ground, the increase in motor vehicle accidents is reported to be 3-8 times more prevalent in those with OSA. It's got to be similar, if not worse, in the air.
For blog readers who also happen to be struggling with infertility, it seems as though removing the mask might help enhance the romance a bit. :)
Given a choice between schlepping with a bulky CPAP machine or slipping a simple dental device into your cosmetic case, I'd be willing to bet a dentist like Dr. Simmons can be a great investment in your own career longevity. Not to mention safety for your passengers like me!
Proper screening, fitting, and followup for OAT requires about 4 visits. You can contact Dr. Simmons at the link above for information on pricing, appointments, etc.