As we close in on Super Bowl 50, I want to share a story about a former Super Bowl champion whose life was cut short by a very common dental problem. If you’re older than 25 and a football fan, you probably remember the menacing power of Reggie White, who played defensive end. White led the Green Bay Packers to a win in Super Bowl 31 and is considered one of the greatest defensive players to ever walk on the field.
We can review his career all day, so today I want to tell you about how sleep apnea eventually took White’s life at the age of 43. White’s cause of death was found to be from complications with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea. Like most people, I’m sure White’s problem started with simple snoring.
What You Don’t Know About Snoring
It’s safe to say most Americans don’t understand the dangers of sleep apnea. We love to poke fun at people who snore, and surprisingly, even those who suffer from sleep apnea. Even our favorite movies love to joke about people who snore loud enough to wake the dead. We would never make fun of tooth decay or gum disease in this same way. Snoring is no laughing matter. It’s one of the signs of sleep apnea, which can be deadly if left untreated.
About 40 million Americans snore. Snoring can be distracting to our sleep patterns and to our spouse or partner. Snoring doesn’t automatically mean you have sleep apnea, but it’s one of the most obvious signs of sleep apnea, but there are other symptoms to look out for:
- Do you find yourself gasping for air throughout the night?
- Do you wake up feeling exhausted even after 8 or 10 hours of sleep?
- Do you wake up with headaches?
- Do you doze off throughout the day?
All of these problems are classic signs of sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea has been found to increase your risk of depression, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Patients with sleep apnea suffer from an obstruction in their airway, causing long pauses in breathing. In some cases, patients with sleep apnea can wake up nearly 100 times a night. In many cases, the muscles in the throat relax and the tongue rolls back to block the airway. Patients who are overweight, have larger neck sizes, sinus issues, large tonsils, or a large tongue are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
Any dentist can give you facts about sleep apnea, but where 1st in Smiles is different is that we can diagnose and treat your problems. We start with an initial exam to learn about your issues and discuss your goals. If we determine your problems may be caused by sleep apnea, we will set you up with a specialist who will conduct a lab sleep study. The study measures your breathing while you sleep and monitors the number of times your breathing stops during sleep.
Achieve a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep apnea, while serious, can be treated! And the treatment continue to get more advanced. Years ago, dentists exclusively treated sleep apnea with cumbersome CPAP machines, but the treatments have changed for the better. Now my office can craft a comfortable oral appliance that fits on your lower jaw. The appliance moves the lower jaw forward to keep the airways open.
Patients find that our sleep apnea appliance is comfortable and resolves their sleep apnea issues within the first few nights.
If you are struggling with sleep apnea or have been told your snoring has become a problem, call our office today at 972-380-8105 to schedule a visit.