Sleep and Health

Pasadena, Deer Park Texas Dental Sleep Medicine:

Healthy sleep is necessary for mental and physical well-being. Medicine’s understanding of the mechanism that link body function, sleep processes and brain is somewhat new. It was only in the 1950s that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was identified. Until then, sleep was considered a passive state without any actual importance in medical context. Now doctors know that sleep is an active process that increases many functions of the brain and body. Sleep medicine is very new field of study. Specifically, the very first book on sleep medicine was printed in 1989. The groundbreaking book ushered in sleep medicine as its own specialty.

Sleep apnea was overlooked by cardiologists, pulmonologists, ENTs and internal medicine doctors because they did not consider sleep. Research done by Neurologists and Psychiatrists also missed sleep apnea because they did not examine breathing. A huge irony is that generations of dentists have examined the mouths of endless individuals with sleep disordered breathing without knowing of the disorder. Dentists will play a huge part in sleep apnea treatment as sleep medicine treatment evolves. Dentists are most often the first and only health care provider to look in the oral cavity. Thus, it behooves dentists to have a good knowledge of sleep apnea. This underscores the importance of a multidisciplinary approach. This is why Dr. Nugent works with your physicians to develop a sleep apnea management plan.  Most sleep apnea patients are undiagnosed. Dr. Nugent and his team are the starting point for screening and education. If sleep apnea is suspected, Dr. Nugent can have you take a home sleep test. The data from this test is read by a Board-Certified Sleep Physician and the results are sent to Dr. Nugent. He will bring you in for a consult and go over your sleep test results and recommend a plan moving forward.

The dentist has a potentially major role in sleep disorders recognition and treatment. While continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) remains the first choice of treatment for sleep apnea by medical doctors, there is a significant role for mandibular advancement appliances. These oral appliances require adequate fitting by a knowledgeable dentist to be effective.

Approximately 50-70 million people in the United States are chronic sufferers from sleep disorders. They have diminished health and daily functioning issues as a result of those disorders. The societal economic impact of sleep disorders is estimated at $16 billion annually for health care expenses and $50 billion annually regarding lost productivity.  Sleep disorders are considered to be one of the most common health problems, and yet around 82% to 98% of adults with sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD) are not diagnosed.

As it relates to the recognition of health issues, the role of the dentist as well as auxiliary staff is becoming more important.  No longer is the dentist solely relegated to only the management of dental structures and dental related conditions.  The dentist now has an ever-increasing role in the recognition of a patient who may be at risk for a sleep disorder. Epidemiologic data support the increasing awareness of the relationship of sleep disorders and other health issues. Clinical treatment and decision making now emphasize sound evidence based on documentation that relies on well-researched epidemiologic studies to assist in determining the coexistence of a sleep disorder, which in turn is impacting the health of a patient.

A dentist has the opportunity to recognize a potential sleep disorder issue in their patients, but he or she also has the opportunity to interact with the sleep medicine field through both the referral and the provision of oral appliance therapy when indicated.

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