Briarfield Dental - April 2018

April 2018

Why Does My Dentist Care About Sleep Apnea? FROM SNORING TO A HEART ATTACK

A few years ago, my cousin Dave suffered a major heart attack. He was maybe 55 at the time — just a year and a half older than I was. His heart stopped, and Dave basically died, but thankfully, the paramedics were able to revive him. Dave survived his heart attack, and I got to see him at the Stuckey family reunion that summer. Though Dave wasn’t an older guy, his physical health wasn’t the best. He was overweight, exhausted all the time, and had diabetes and high blood pressure. These are all signs of sleep apnea, and warning bells went off in my head. In fact, when I asked him if he snored, his wife Brenda looked over at me and rolled her eyes. “I can’t sleep in the same room as him!” she said. Then, I asked Dave if any of his doctors had ever suggested he take a sleep test. He told me no and asked why anyone would do that. I said, “Well, Dave, I think you might have sleep apnea.” “If you learn you’ve suffered from a disease for years, you don’t want to wait around while you keep getting worse.” After the reunion, Dave came up to my office and did a home sleep test. His results were off the charts, showing he had severe sleep apnea. I sent him home to find a sleep specialist, who conducted a lab sleep test and confirmed my findings. The specialist set Dave up with a CPAP machine, which I’m happy to

report Dave has been using religiously. He hasn’t had any more heart problems, and his blood pressure is down! I am so glad he listened to my advice and got help. Dave was headed toward another heart attack, and there was a good chance he wouldn’t have walked away from it again. People aren’t always willing to get the help they need when diagnosed with a sleep disorder. I had a patient some time ago who I determined was suffering from sleep apnea. I tried to convince him to receive treatment, either with an oral appliance I could provide in the office or by getting a CPAP machine from a sleep specialist. He didn’t want to make a decision right away, and each time I saw him after that, he would tell me he was still thinking about it. After we didn’t see him for a while, one of my office team members found an obituary saying he’d passed away due to health complications. The news was a devastating blow. This man wasn’t an old guy — maybe in his late 50s or early 60s. He should have had decades left on this earth, but I wasn’t able to make him

understand how serious sleep apnea really is. By the time a person is diagnosed with sleep apnea, they have been suffering from it for years. If you learn you’ve suffered from a disease for years, you don’t want to wait around while you keep getting worse. Sleep apnea is becoming better known among the general population, but many people still make the mistake of believing it’s just loud snoring. In reality, the loud, erratic snoring is caused by a person’s throat closing during sleep. They spend hours every night suffocating, and that constant oxygen deprivation will destroy your internal organs over time. When I tell a patient they have sleep apnea, I don’t care if that patient chooses to use an oral appliance from my office, get a CPAP machine from a sleep specialist, or seek help from another dentist. I just want them to get the lifesaving treatment they need so they can hopefully stay with us for many more years, like my cousin Dave. –Dr. Stuckey

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