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How to Spot Possible Sleep Apnea in Your Dental Patients.

Dental Patient SleepingDo your patients comment on being tired or struggling to feel rested? Or maybe they mention having mood and memory problems? These issues might be caused by obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that occurs when you struggle to breathe freely throughout the night and can lead to fragmented sleep. Sleep apnea affects 18 million Americans and there are certain characteristics that can put your patients at a higher risk for the disorder.

Look out for these five indicators:

1. A Higher BMI: While not everyone who is overweight or obese has sleep apnea, carrying around extra weight greatly increases your risk. The reason: Being overweight puts added pressure on your respiratory system, making it harder to breathe at night.

2. A Large Neck Circumference: Pay special attention if your neck measures 17 inches or greater (for a man) or 16 inches or greater (for a woman) in circumference. The extra weight of a larger neck pushes on the airway while you sleep.

3. Snoring: Around half of everyone who is a loud snorer has sleep apnea. The sound of snoring is caused by not breathing freely. With sleep apnea, snoring can actually get so bad that it sounds like you’re choking or gasping for air.

4. Smoking and Alcohol Use: Alcohol can relax the muscles in the throat, which makes it easier for them to get obstructed. And smokers are also at a higher risk for sleep apnea, possibly because the tobacco irritates and inflames the upper airway, causing it to narrow.

5. A Small Airway: Since sleep apnea occurs when you have trouble breathing at night, it makes sense that having a smaller airway can increase your risk. There are many reasons that a person’s might be small. For instance, maybe it’s just the natural shape of their nose and throat, or perhaps they have a large tongue or tonsils, or maybe they have bad allergies.

If you do suspect that your patient may have sleep apnea, don’t let them wait see a doctor because it’s a serious disorder that can be life threatening. National Sleep Alliance can train you to work with a sleep apnea specialist so you can identify, treat and refer your patients as soon as possible to protect their health, and allow you to add medical billing revenues to grow your practice.

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Source: National Sleep Foundation