When I first met Rick he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in the past decade. This former college athlete was now overweight, lacked energy, motivation and drive. Rick was afraid he was going to fall asleep at his car’s steering wheel due to fatigue. He was taking two medications for hypertension caused from his excess weight gain that we later found was tied to sleep apnea.
Like an estimated 20 million other Americans, Rick was suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is serious disorder in which air flow is blocked by throat muscles and soft tissues during sleep. The constant lack of oxygen prevented Rick from going through the complete stages of sleep that his body needed for repair and recovery. Because he rarely went through REM sleep, Rick’s body never released hormones that are critical to maintaining ideal weight. Lacking energy, he was unable to exercise which initiated his weight gain and need for hypertension medication. Rick was trapped in a deadly cycle.
Rick’s condition was diagnosed by an overnight sleep study and he was fitted for a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. Despite repeated attempts by his physician to adjust the bulky mask, he was unable to sleep with the cumbersome appliance. Fortunately we were able to fit him with a small, comfortable oral appliance that repositioned his jaw. Fitted like a sports mouthguard, the appliance gently extends the jaw forward to open up the breathing passage. Air flow was restored and a constant supply of oxygen was able to reach his brain. He was finally able to achieve a good night’s sleep.
When I saw Rick the other day he had lost 40 lb. and was exercising four times a week. He was no longer taking any medications and was full of drive and energy. Of all the therapies a dentist can offer his patients, treatment of OSA is truly a life changer.
Guy Grabiak, DMD, FAGD | www.denverdentistry.com
3190 South Wadsworth Boulevard # 300 Lakewood, CO 80227