Sleep apnea is a very common disorder, but it can be very difficult to diagnose. The disorder, which leads to interrupted sleep, can have serious consequences for the health and welfare of the sufferer. There are a number of ways to get tested for sleep apnea, including by your local dentist. As well as regular dental care and procedures, family dentistry can also help with related disorders like sleep apnea diagnosis and chronic facial pain treatment.
A hidden disorder
About 18 million people suffer from sleep apnea, but only a fraction are diagnosed and treated. As many as 2 to 4% of Americans suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea. Sleep apnea refers to a condition in which the nasal passages are blocked during sleep, causing breathing to stop temporarily. Such episodes can occur several times each night.
Sleep apnea leads to interrupted and disturbed sleep, which makes the person irritable, tired and distracted during the daytime. This can be risky if they are driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of other serious illnesses. Sufferers are three times more likely to suffer from heart disease as well.
Diagnosis of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea goes undiagnosed because by definition, episodes occur when the sufferer is asleep. Someone who suspects that they suffer from sleep apnea can start by consulting a primary care physician or sleep specialist. Some insurers will cover the cost of tests.
Several different kinds of physicians can test for sleep apnea. You can go to a pulmonologist, who specializes in diseases of the lungs, an otolaryngologist, who treats the ears, nose, and throat, a neurologist, psychiatrists or even your family physician. Some family dentists also have the necessary training. Alongside other dental services and procedures, they can offer sleep apnea treatment and chronic facial pain treatment.
How a sleep study works
A sleep study can be done in a sleep lab, or at home. Some people might be more comfortable in their familiar environment. Even if you choose to conduct the sleep study at home, special equipment will be needed. The tests are not painful. The sleep study will produce records of activity during about six hours of sleep.
Records like an electroencephalogram, or EEG, which measures brain waves; an electroculogram, or EOG, which measures eye and chin movements, and an electrocardiogram or EKG, which measures heart rate and rhythm, can all show periods of interrupted breathing. The test may also use bands to measure respiration and monitors to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood, and to record leg movement.
Once your doctors had the results of the sleep study, sleep apnea treatment options can be discussed. Sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment can be carried out by doctors with different medical specialities. Many dentists can also offer such services as sleep apnea and chronic facial pain treatment.