Friday, April 23, 2010

Sleep Interrupted: A Public Health Issue

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects an estimated 18 million adults in the U.S. OSA occurs when the tongue and soft tissues in the throat collapse into the airway, causing pauses in breath during sleep. Apneas can occur hundreds of times a night.

OSA patients can sleep for hours but still feel exhausted. This excessive daytime drowsiness can pose hazards on the road and in the workplace.

A 2006 Institute of Medicine report found that drowsiness costs $150 billion each year in accidents and lost productivity. Another $48 billion in medical costs result from auto accidents involving sleepy drivers. The IOM report found that 20 percent of all serious car accidents are caused by sleep-deprived drivers.

Qualified dentists can treat patients with oral appliance therapy (OAT). A feature article in the spring issue of Tufts Journal asked AADSM Immediate Past President Jeffrey Prinsell, DMD, MD, how dentists have addressed this public health issue.

Dr. Prinsell explained that sleep apnea requires treatment. “These patients are extremely tired; their performance at work suffers; they lose their libido; their bed partners leave them. And if [the sleep apnea] is left untreated, these people could die at night in their sleep,” he said.

“It’s very important we get some sort of treatment that lets these people function,” said Dr. Prinsell. He helped create Dentists Against Drowsy Driving, a public health campaign launched by the AADSM in November 2008. The program aims to raise awareness among health-care providers and the public about OSA.

Most OSA patients respond to some combination of CPAP or OAT. But some patients require surgery. Dentists who are oral and maxillofacial surgeons can perform these surgeries. They include remodeling nasal passages, adjusting the jaw, repositioning the tongue or removing the tonsils.

The article highlights Tufts University’s new program in dental sleep medicine. Read more about the program here.

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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.