Posts for: February, 2014
You may think snoring is a minor problem, but it can be a lot more than that. Just ask hoops star Shaquille O'Neal, whose rambunctious snoring bothered his girlfriend enough for her to suspect a health problem. Her observations eventually led to Shaq's diagnosis of moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which occurs when the soft tissue structures at the back of a person's throat, including the tongue, partially close off the upper airway and prevent air from moving into the lungs during sleep. Sometimes airflow can be blocked completely for 10 or more seconds.
When air flow is reduced, blood oxygen levels drop. This leads to brief waking episodes known as “micro-arousals,” which can happen sometimes more than 50 times an hour. The sleeper might not even be aware of this, even while gasping for air. Micro-arousals prevent the person from ever reaching deep, restful sleep.
Besides suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show sleep apnea patients are at higher risks of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage and strokes. People with sleep apnea also have a higher incidence of work and driving-related accidents.
OSA can be treated in a few different ways. On the advice of his doctor, Shaq opted for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which generates pressurized air delivered through a face mask worn while sleeping. The force of the pressurized air opens the airway (windpipe) in the same way as blowing into a balloon does.
For people with milder OSA, or who find they can't tolerate wearing a mask during sleep, an oral appliance supplied by a dental professional might be the answer. Oral appliances are worn in the mouth and are designed to gently reposition the jaw and move the tongue forward away from the back of the throat. Success rates of 80% or more have been reported using oral appliances, depending on the severity of the OSA.
If you would like more information on sleep apnea, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about sleep apnea by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”
Traveling to faraway places is the stuff of daydreams for many people, and even more exciting when the dream comes true. But that excitement could be dampened should you ever be faced with the reality that your medical treatment options abroad can be quite different from what you enjoy at home in the United States.
Dental care is no exception. If you have a dental emergency abroad, you may be unpleasantly surprised at the lack of available care at the level of quality you’re accustomed to at home. It’s prudent, therefore, to take a few precautions before you go and do a little research on sources of dental care where you’ll be traveling.
Before your trip you should schedule a dental visit, especially if you have some lingering issues that need attending; you should also be sure to plan this well enough in advance to allow time for any subsequent treatment and convalescence. It’s especially important that you have damaged or cracked teeth treated, as well as complete any recommended root canals. You should also schedule a cleaning, and have any teeth with sensitivity issues checked for possible periodontal (gum) disease.
While you can significantly reduce your risk of a dental emergency before you travel, you can’t eliminate it all together — a problem could still arise during your trip. It’s advisable, then, that you bring along contact information for people or organizations that could assist you with obtaining medical or dental treatment. Your hotel concierge, the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, or even other Americans living or stationed in the country you’re visiting can be helpful sources of information. You might also contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (www.iamat.org) or, if in Europe, the American Dental Society of Europe (ADSE) (www.adse.co.uk) for recommendations on care.
A dental emergency during foreign travel could turn that dream vacation into a nightmare. You can lessen the chance of that by taking these few precautions before you go.
For a copy of A Traveler’s Guide to Safe Dental Care, visit www.osap.org. If you would like more information on dental concerns when you are traveling, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Traveling Abroad? Tips for Dealing with Dental Emergencies.”