Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Teaming Up Against Sleep Apnea: Physicians and Dentists Collaborate to Help Patients

An article in today’s Times Herald-Record highlights the teamwork many dentists and sleep physicians use to treat sleep apnea.

In a quest to help his wife sleep, 52 year-old John Franco set out to cure his snoring.

After taking a sleep test – he found out his snoring was actually a sign of sleep apnea.

Franco tried everything from CPAP to surgery to treat his apnea. Finally, Franco’s journey led him to an unlikely spot – the dentist chair.

Franco’s dentist, AADSM member Dr. Thomas Littner, told him about a dental device that might improve his snoring and his health.

Snoring and sleep apnea happen when a person’s airway partially or completely collapses during sleep. Dentists are not permitted to diagnose sleep apnea. But after a person takes a sleep test and gets diagnosed with sleep apnea, a dentist can fit that patient with an oral appliance. This appliance keeps the patient’s airway open so they can sleep better.

Dr. Littner fit Franco with a custom-made device.

"It's comfortable," Franco said. "It did take time to get used to it, but I like it. And most importantly, I don't snore. My wife said so."

Dr. Littner is an OSA patient himself. He became interested in dental sleep medicine when he started using an oral appliance to improve his own sleep. To learn oral appliance therapy, he took courses with the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Littner is on staff at Orange Regional Medical Center where he works with Dr. Alan Schaffer to treat obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Schaffer is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Dr. Schaffer explained how sleep medicine often requires a team of professionals to improve patients’ health.

"This whole field sets itself up as a multidisciplinary approach in medicine. It's an alternative to our C-PAP breathing apparatus that our center recommends for sleep apnea. But we have some patients (like Franco) who cannot tolerate the C-PAP, so we send them to Dr. Littner to be fitted with an oral device. We complement each other very nicely."

1 comment:

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.