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Sleep Apnea

Richard D. Fischer, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., F.I.A.O.M.T.  
4222 Evergreen Lane
Annandale, VA 22003
Telephone: (703) 256-4441
Fax: (703) 354-1631

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Dear Friends,

Over the past 35 years I have studied and utilized various integrative health care modalities in my practice that serve to support and enhance the overall health of patients, family and friends.  These studies have led me into such fields as clinical nutrition, homeopathy, oral orthopedics (TMJ), oral medicine and toxicology, acupuncture, and cranial osteopathy.

During the last 8 years I have received intensive training in the arena of medicine/dentistry dealing with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Snoring.  Research confirms that there are serious health implications for the indidual who has sleep apnea & snoring – as well as for their spouse!

To understand why, let’s look at what snoring actually is.  When we sleep the muscles and other soft tissues of the throat relax and cause a narrowing or collapse of the airway.  As a result of this collapse, the air flowing past the relaxed soft tissues in the throat moves at a greater velocity causing them to vibrate as you breathe – much as a flag flaps in the wind – resulting in the harsh snoring sounds with which we are all familiar.

First – The Bad News

Snoring is indicative of the development or existence of a sleep breathing disorder.  During normal breathing our bodies produce a substance called nitric oxide (NO), not to be confused with nitrous oxide or “laughing gas.”  NO protects the inner linings of our blood vessels from damage or plaques – i.e. the beginning of cardiovascular disease.  Recent research has shown that within seconds upon the start of snoring, the production of NO stops, leaving our cardiovascular system vulnerable to breakdown. Snoring can also activate the sympathetic nervous system (or “fight or flight mechanism”) which in turn can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure).

Snoring may also be a major indicator of a more significant medical condition called “Obstructive Sleep Apnea” (OSA).  OSA is, as defined by the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, “a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions during sleep … repeated periods of no breathing for at least 10 seconds at a time.”  These periods are called apnic events and can last over a minute!  It is not surprising then that people with OSA sometimes awaken grasping for breath.  Untreated, sleep apnea sufferers have up to a 500% increased risk of dying during their sleep from a heart attack or stroke.  They statistically average a reduced life expectancy of 8 years.

OSA is linked to:

  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Hypertension and Stroke 
  • Depression
  • Attention deficit/Hyperactivity disorder
  • Memory loss
  • Increased mortality

Risk factors for OSA include:

  • Anatomy of the airway
  • Weight gain
  • Increasing age
  • Bruxism (tooth grinding)
  • Misaligned teeth and jaw
  • Menopause
  • Family history

People with untreated OSA experience reduced blood oxygen levels and frequent brief arousals from their sleep.  As a result they commonly experience daytime sleepiness, headaches, memory loss and up to 10 times the frequency of automobile accidents.

NOW – The Good New  – We can help! 

Currently there are 4 treatments approaches for snoring and OSA:

  • Weight loss – 20% of body weight!
  • Surgical treatment of the jaws 
  • CPAP – a forced-air pump and mask to help inflate the lungs
  • Dental mouthpieces (oral appliances)

Dr Fischer is one of only 2 dentists in Virginia to ever become Board Certified in the treatment of Sleep Apnea by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine.

At last count there are 88 different FDA approved oral appliances used to treat snoring.  The oral appliance looks like an athletic mouth guard, but it’s much less bulky.  It works by gently supporting your jaw in the right position to maintain proper airway function as you sleep.

Because Sleep Disordered Breathing is of such great medical concern, the testing and treatment which we do is typically reimbursable to patients from their medical (not dental) insurance carriers.  We will work closely with your medical physician to expedite this process.

If you suspect you or any loved ones may suffer from snoring or OSA, give our office a call for more information.

Richard D. Fischer, D.D.S.

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