You visit your dental hygienist twice a year for a cleaning, and sometimes X-rays are taken but did you know your hygienist is doing far more than cleaning your teeth? Dental hygienists play a vital role not just in your oral health but your overall health as well. Our bodies are designed to work together as a system, and when one aspect of our health is suffering, it throws the rest of the body off balance. Many health conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be identified by your dental hygienist simply by the condition of your mouth!
OSA is a life-threatening disease affecting the airway, specifically while you sleep. This sleep breathing disease increases your chance of developing a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. Not to mention, the increased risk of an accident. It is estimated that nearly 25 million Americans, both men and women, suffer from OSA, and their sleep quality and health are suffering. Even more alarming is that only about 5% of OSA sufferers have been diagnosed, or undergone a sleep study. Sadly, millions of people are going undiagnosed and untreated for their OSA and its related symptoms.
Fortunately, training and education among dental hygienist are expanding to help dental professionals to be able to identify this life-threatening disease in patients. OSA can exhibit symptoms that can be detected at the dentist’s office. Even more of a reason to not skip your dental cleanings. Doing so could put your health on the line.
If you believe you suffer from OSA, do not delay getting a sleep study. Discuss your symptoms with the dentist or dental hygienist. Once OSA is confirmed, treatment can begin. Know that your options for treatment are no longer limited to a noisy CPAP machine. Many patients with mild OSA benefit from mandibular advancement devices, such as a custom-made orthotic that help to reposition the lower jaw, allowing for proper airflow.