Get Busy Living!!

“It comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

Over the past few years, I have spent many hours researching the very disturbing trend of the rapidly declining health of American citizens. When compared to other wealthy nations, we spend almost twice as much on healthcare costs but rank at the bottom for health outcomes. As your dentist, I am eager to be part of the solution to help improve the health of the patients I serve. Many chronic conditions (high blood pressure, acid reflux, cardiac ailments, restless leg, tooth grinding & clenching, depression, anxiety, recurrent decay, etc) stem from poor sleep quality and quantity. Dentists can play a role in identifying and treating conditions related to sleep disordered breathing. It has become one of my passions to be part of the solution in helping our patients be the healthiest they can be.

In an effort to assist our patients to ‘Get Busy Living’, we have incorporated an at Home Sleep Test (HST) for you to do in the comfort of your own bed. We started this several years ago after struggling to get suspected patients to test with their physicians.

There were two main complaints that I heard:

  1. I don’t want to sleep in a strange place.
  2. My insurance won’t pay for it.

It’s a challenge being part of the solution to a healthcare crisis if you can’t get patients to easily address their compromised sleep…..

So we came up with two solutions to the diagnosis barrier:

The first action was to implement a Home Sleep Test (HST) that patients can do in the comfort of their own bed with all of their familiar surroundings.

The second action we took is a bit less common and what we are affectionately calling our public service to the patients we serve. In an effort to remove the cost barrier, we only charge $50 for our HST. This charge covers the disposable items worn during the test. If these items are saved by the patient, there is no additional charge for future testing.

Dentists play an integral role in evaluating patient airways, not just the health of your dentition. Sleep apnea affects more than 10% of the US population but only 1% are actually being treated for the condition. When I assess your airway and oral cavity, I may notice a worn dentition (chipping of your front teeth). I may notice a constricted airway either due to an enlarged tongue, swollen tonsils or collapsed dental arch due to crowded teeth. When your teeth are crowded and become crooked, this decreases the amount of space for your tongue within the framework of your mouth. Your tongue needs space, so it moves back in your mouth and blocks your airway. Interestingly, when you gain weight, your tongue gains a greater percentage of weight per mass than other areas of your body where fat deposits.

If you or a loved one is interested in utilizing our HST, please call Laurie or Donna to schedule an appointment. After your night’s sleep, you will bring the HST back to our office and we will download the information gathered from your recording including heart rate, sleep position, O2 saturation levels, snoring, tooth grinding, respiratory rate, and more. We provide you with a copy of the results and encourage you to share them with your provider. We work with a sleep physician to help with proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations. We review simple changes you can make in an effort to improve your ability to breathe at night: sleep position, head position, mouth tape, nasal strips, weight loss, breathing exercises, etc.

I am going to close with a personal note. This is a condition that I recently discovered was affecting me and my sleep quality. Primary risk factors for sleep disordered breathing include: thick neck circumference, excess fat in the midsection and being overweight in general. While none of these were applicable in my personal case, another common indication of sleep disordered breathing was my tooth clenching/grinding. This is something I have suffered from for decades. With proper treatment, I have been out of pain for almost a year and have not had the headaches that used to afflict me. This experience has made me far more sensitive to the patients I may have ‘missed’ over the years.

As always, thank you for the opportunity to care for you. I look forward to seeing you at your next visit. If this topic is something you want to discuss, I will be more than happy to help you to a path of good sleep and healthy living.


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