Sleep is therapeutic, a good night’s sleep can restore your body, rebuff your immune system and revive the mind. Medics recommend at least eight hours of sleep in a day for an adult. Unfortunately, adults are also surrounded by psychological and physiological issues that curtail this vital element of healthy living. Obstructive sleep apnea is one such condition that is serious and life-threatening. It is characterised by episodes of intermittent lapses in the breathing cycle. A patient usually stops breathing for a couple of seconds while they are asleep.
Sleep apnea is often overlooked by the general public and by many health professionals. Thus, a vast number of patients remain undiagnosed and untreated of the disorder.
Dentists and orthodontic caregivers in Singapore play a significant role in detecting, diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. Here’s how.
Dentists interact with their patients rather frequently. It puts them in a vantage position in detecting many ailments. Sleep apnoea detection is especially suited for the dentists and orthodontists as it is related to the mouth. The dentist can notice symptoms that are not so obvious to others. As they give orthodontic service, they can identify unique features of the oral anatomy and pick out anatomical features that exacerbate the risk of sleep apnoea. Other symptoms of the condition include snoring, fatigue or excessive sleepiness, frequent sleep disruptions, night gasps or choking and morning headaches.
Dentists, unlike some other medical professionals, interact with their patients on a more regular basis. During the interactions, they stand a better chance of identifying other, non-physical symptoms of sleep apnea. As you receive orthodontic service in Singapore, the dentist can quickly investigate and advice if you have the condition. If it is a positive, they will send you to a specialist sleep physician, to perform a polysomnogram, or “sleep study” and subsequently provide a diagnosis.
The diagnosis of sleep apnea is a complicated process that is best done by specialist physicians. However, developments in dental and sleep medicine enable dentists to send patients home with a structured home-based sleep study which records necessary data for a professional diagnosis. The data still has to be analysed by specialist sleep physician who reads and interprets the data and makes the determination.
Once the patient is diagnosed, she or he may go back to the dentist for treatment.
Many dentists and orthodontists in Singapore take specialised training to improve their ability to identify and treat sleep apnea. They can use behavioural modification techniques and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy which is also one of the most common type of therapy. In instances, where the patient is unable to use CPAP, dentists and orthodontists, can recommend the use of oral appliances to manage the condition. Also, there are surgical procedures that could remove excess tissue and open the airway.
To conclude, in 2016, ChannelnewsAsia.com cited a study by the Jurong Health Services which indicated that a third of Singaporeans suffer from sleep apnea. With such a high occurrence rate, dentists and orthodontic practitioners in Singapore have a critical role in screening, diagnosis and treatment of the condition and eventually reduce the occurrence rate.