06 Dec After The Diagnosis: Five Questions Patients Should Ask about Sleep Apnea
Whether your partner has been complaining about your loud snoring or you just got tired of being tired, you finally asked your doctor about your sleep problems and had a sleep study. As you (and your doctor) suspected, the diagnosis is sleep apnea.
Getting the diagnosis is just the first step, it’s what you do afterward that could change and save your life. After your diagnosis, you should make an appointment with a doctor or dentist who specializes in sleep medicine. Getting specialized care from a professional who is trained to specifically treat sleep apnea will open your treatment options and increase treatment success. As you prepare for your appointment, make sure to ask these questions:
What are my treatment options?
For many years, the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device has been viewed as the most reliable method of treatment. However, many patients dislike using their CPAP device and as a result discontinue use after a few months. Research shows a dental appliance can effectively treat mild to moderate sleep apnea. Oral appliance therapy has been successfully used for over a decade, although it’s not always the first line of treatment recommended–which emphasizes the reasons you should seek care from a sleep specialist to increase your treatment options. Many medical studies show it can work well, even for cases of severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
What are the risks of not treating sleep apnea?
It can be tempting to ignore the diagnosis. Before you make the decision not to treat your sleep apnea, be fully aware of the consequences. Not only can sleep apnea contribute to daytime sleepiness and fatigue, it can also increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke and increase your chances of having high blood pressure. Sleep apnea is about more than snoring loudly and not getting a good night’s sleep. For patients who cannot tolerate a CPAP machine, oral appliance therapy offers alternative methods of treatment with positive outcomes. So don’t ignore your diagnosis just because you don’t want to wear a machine when you sleep.
Could my other health problems be linked to or cause sleep apnea?
While untreated sleep apnea can increase chances of heart attack and stroke, you may already be experiencing some of the dangerous side effects of sleep apnea. If you already have high blood pressure, sleep apnea may make the condition worse. Sleep apnea may also be causing problems with type 2 diabetes and may make it harder for you to lose weight. Make sure your sleep specialist knows about any other health problems you have, how treating sleep apnea may affect those and how your sleep doctor and your other doctors can work together to get you healthy.
Can something I eat make sleep apnea better or worse?
Many sleep apnea patients also experience acid reflux. Controlling acid reflux–which can involve changing your diet–may also help you manage your sleep apnea. One of the most common causes of sleep apnea is excessive weight and obesity. Changing your diet to increase weight loss may also help your sleep apnea. However, changing your diet alone is rarely enough to treat sleep apnea. A sleep specialist can help you understand any underlying causes of sleep apnea that diet may affect and refer you to a nutritionist if needed.
Will my insurance cover oral appliance therapy?
Oral appliance therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea is covered by medical insurance and by Medicare.
You’ll likely have a lot of other questions for your sleep specialist, so make sure to take your list of questions along with a pen and notepad along. It’s also helpful to bring a friend or family member with you to your appointment as they may remember things the specialist says that you do not. If your bed partner can accompany you, he or she can offer insights into your sleeping habits that you haven’t noticed and that might help.
Together, you and your sleep specialist can find the most effective treatment for your sleep apnea so you’re getting more sleep and have more energy to get back to the activities you love.
If you’re looking for a local dentist with special training in treating sleep apnea, call for an appointment with Dr. John Bryson, DDS or Dr. George Marquis, DMD. Both Dr. Bryson and Dr. Marquis have extensive training and experience with oral appliance therapy for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP. They can examine your mouth and throat and communicate with your general physician and other specialists about the possibility of an oral appliance to help you. They always work closely with your medical doctors and only prescribe oral appliances that are approved by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.