Your next breath

Do you or someone you know snore? Are you restless in your sleep? Do you wake up feeling not quite refreshed and ready to face your day with the energy you’d like to have? Do you wake up frequently in the night? Are you tired or exhausted during your day? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may be suffering from a sleep breathing disorder (SBD).

It is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that as many as 100,000,000 suffer from sleep apnea worldwide. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the sleep breathing disorder with the most awareness, and is a condition whereby a person stops breathing for a period of time because their airway is literally obstructed. However, it is not the only SBD. The numbers of people suffering goes up when you include the people that partially stop breathing, those that just require a lot more effort to breathe at night, those that don’t receive a signal from their brains to breathe, and those that develop reduced blood oxygen levels at night.

All of these SBD’s have a dramatic impact on a person’s body and physiology. These include lack of oxygen for the brain, fragmented sleep resulting in insufficient deep or reparative sleep, and chronic stress on one’s nervous system. The result is decreased immune function, increased sense of pain, lack of cognition/memory, and metabolic disorders such as high blood pressure, obesity and type II diabetes.

Science is very clear about the significance or SBD’s and OSA when we look at the stats and the studies. Untreated OSA can put a person 23 times more at risk for having a heart attack. Studies have demonstrated that 65 – 85% of stroke victims had OSA. Further, untreated OSA can shorten a person’s life by up to 20% depending on severity. These are to highlight but a few of the serious issues associated with SBD’s.

You might be wondering why a dentist is writing on this topic. The answer is simple. A person often sees their dentist more than any other health care practitioner, and a dentist with training can recognize the risk factors and bring the topic to a patient’s attention. Such a dentist could also be able to easily and painlessly test a person’s quality of sleep with the use of portable monitoring equipment. Then to take it a step further, many of the SBD’s are treatable with the use of a custom fit appliance known as a mandibular advancement device (MAD).

This condition is a serious health risk with large ramifications in terms of a person’s quality of life as well as length of life. To really appreciate that simply think about this statement: the most important thing to any living being is their next breath.

Dr. Mark Provencher is a general dentist having graduated with distinction from the University of Alberta in 1997. He is active in numerous professional organizations and is a perpetual student that prefers a proactive, holistic, why based approach to care. He has hundreds of hours of extra training in the areas of neuromuscular dentistry, sleep dentistry, cosmetic and complex restorative dentistry. He lives in Kelowna with his beautiful wife and two young children.

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