In a previous video (Sleep Apnea Part 1: A Breathing Disorder that Impacts Overall Health), I talked about the importance of Sleep Apnea, it’s definition, why it relates to the oral-systemic component and why we help screen for that in the dental office.
Although as dentists we can’t make the official diagnosis of Sleep Apnea, which is done by someone with a medical license, we have a unique opportunity here in the dental office to get in on the ground floor of the screening and education process to help get patients who have Sleep Apnea going in the right direction toward treatment. The screening process is instrumental in getting people who suffer from Sleep Apnea treatment as soon as possible.
When patients come in to our office, we take an extensive health history, we learn from their family history, we do a chair-side clinical exam, we can see signs of wear and other issues that are related to Sleep Apnea; we can see the size of a person’s tongue, etc. The screening form, of which, the best part is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, where the patient rates his or her probability of falling asleep during the daytime. Daytime drowsiness is very significant regarding Sleep Apnea, and we can actually help test for that and gather important data.
We put all that together: the sleepiness scale, other issues that we talked about, hypertension, diabetes, neck size, body mass index, height and weight, and we can paint a picture as to whether the patient has a tendency toward Sleep Apnea. If it seems that there is a high probability of that, the next step is testing.
There are two ways to do a Home Sleep Apnea Test: In-Home or In-Lab. There are pros and cons to both. Dr. Rockey prefers home sleep testing because the equipment is simpler and the patient is sleeping in a familiar environment in their own bedroom and bed. The test is done over two nights; the equipment is delivered to the patient, it’s simple and the cost is reasonable.
The alternative is to go to a commercial sleep lab, often associated with a hospital or a large private company that would do the test. Although more data may be gathered, Dr. Rockey believes that the quality of the sleep that a patient gets when they’re being tested in an in-lab situation, may not be as good as being in a familiar environment like home over two nights. In any case, we gather information that is downloaded, reports are generated and the data is analyzed, and from that, the medical doctor makes the diagnosis of whether the patient has Sleep Apnea or not. In the next video we’ll go over exactly how that’s done, and what that means.
This video/article is one in a four-part series on Sleep Apnea.
Click here to see the series of videos (playlist):