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Sleep Apnea - A Condition That's Too Often Ignored  
(by Dr. Michael Monokian)

Dr. Mike

"Dr. Mike" Monokian

Imagine you're walking down the street one-day with your husband or wife and you look over and see them struggling to breathe. They're making this terrible sound with every breath.  Every once in a while they even gasp for air. What would you do?  Probably call 911 if I were to guess. So why is it an emergency during our wake hours but not as much of an emergency during our sleeping hours?  I would argue that they are both equally alarming. 

Sleep apnea affects some 18 million Americans, nearly 1 in 15 – often leaving them exhausted and diminishing their productivity.  Left untreated it can lead to:
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • even sometimes death (refer to this University of Wisconsin study). 

What Goes Wrong?
Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops, restricting oxygen intake and disrupting sleep.  The most common form is obstructive sleep apnea in which throat muscles become too relaxed and fail to hold the airway open. This results in breathing interruptions of 10 seconds or longer.  Men, women, and children can all be affected by this disorder. 

How is it Treated?
In mild cases, patients may be given an oral appliance – similar to an adjustable mouthguard - that helps adjust the jaw to a position that keeps the soft tissue in the throat from collapsing.  These same devices help prevent snoring too.
In more serious cases a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device may be prescribed. A CPAP devise has a mask that fits over the nose and/or mouth, delivering a gentle supply of air into the airway to help keep it open during sleep.  Occasionally, surgery may be required.

Could I Have Sleep Apnea?
Unfortunately, despite its serious consequences, sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and thus untreated. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms; in adults these include:
•   Loud snoring
•   Episodes of breathing cessation
•   Consistently waking up with dry mouth or sore throat
•   Morning headaches
•   Excessive daytime sleepiness
•   Attention problems
•   Irritability
•   Heart burn
•   Teeth grindingchild with sleep apnea

Unfortunately, sleep apnea can affect even the very young.  In children, the most common symptoms:
•   Mouth open, tongue hanging out
•   Persistent runny nose
•   Muffled voice
•   Bags under the eyes (see photo)

What if I Have These Symptoms?
We offer free screenings for our patients who are concerned that they may suffer from sleep apnea.  Just complete this short questionnaire, then bring or mail it to our office.  We’ll analyze the results and let you know whether further testing or treatment is recommended. 

This post was submitted by Dr. Michael Monokian, who practices at Monokian Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Marlton, NJ.