March 10:To identify the signs of obstructive sleep apnea, it is better to visit a dentist instead of snoozing in bed at night. According to a new study, dentists are in the unique position as health care professionals to pinpoint signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep due to blocked upper airways.
The research found that oversized tonsils and tongue indentations, which are teeth imprints along the tongue that indicate it is too large for the mouth, placed people at high risk for OSA. Obese patients were almost 10 times more likely to report OSA symptoms than non-obese patients.
Sleep apnea affects millions of adults all over the world, but many cases go undiagnosed. Severe cases of the disorder are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, memory loss and more. Although dentists cannot diagnose the disorder, they can spot an enlarged tongue or tonsils and recommend a patient to a sleep medicine specialist.
Analyzing 200 patients, the researchers tested participants for OSA using the Berlin Questionnaire, a validated assessment used to screen people for OSA. Participants were then screened for potential risk factors of OSA, such as weight, neck circumference, blood pressure, and size of the tongue, tonsils and uvula- the tissue that hangs in the back of the throat. The results found that 23% of participants were at risk for OSA, of which nearly 80% were male.