Tens of millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, many without even knowing they have this dangerous condition in which breathing stops hundreds of times per night during sleep. Your physician should not be among them.

Sleep apnea is not a newly discovered medical condition, although recent years have seen an increase in research into its effects and a greater public awareness push regarding its risks. Sleep apnea didn’t earn its medical name until the 1960s, but the condition was recognized as a sleep disorder in the late 1800s. In other words, ignorance of sleep apnea is no excuse for your physician to attempt to work through this treatable disorder.

1. Doctors Know the Risks

The symptoms of sleep apnea, which include regular snoring , daytime drowsiness and reduced energy, may at first seem mere nuisances. But over time, the effects of sleep apnea can impact your ability to function during your waking hours and eventually take a toll on your health.

Numerous studies have linked sleep apnea to severe, even life-threatening, health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Sleep apnea has also been associated with mood disorders, including depression.

2. We Depend on Doctors to be Focused

Whether you’re visiting a physician for a routine checkup or seeking treatment for a medical problem, your health is in your doctor’s hands. It is only reasonable to expect that your physician be alert and attentive to your unique health needs.

Sleep apnea could impair your doctor’s ability to concentrate, think clearly and make rational, responsive decisions. There are so many details essential to proper diagnosis and treatment, and missing just one can be the difference between successful treatment and a life-threatening misdiagnosis.

3. They Understand Anatomy

Even those physicians who don’t routinely deal with the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea should have a basic understanding of what causes sleep apnea and how this sleep disorder affects the body.

Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles in the rear of the throat become relaxed and allow the tissue of the soft palate to collapse. This narrows the air passage, prevents adequate airflow, and can lower the oxygen level in the bloodstream. Your doctor should know this can happen to anyone, even those without the classic risk factors like being overweight or having a large neck.

4. Sleep Apnea Is Treatable

No one should better understand this fact than a doctor. Yet many medical professionals choose to ignore the warning signs of sleep apnea and try to work through it as if they had no other choice.

There are a number of treatment options for sleep apnea, including CPAP (a device that administers continuous airflow through a mask connected to an air circulator) and dental appliances (which are worn at night to help patients maintain proper bite and jaw position, and thus an open airway). While oral appliances are a relatively recent innovation compared with the old standby CPAP, both are effective, and more people are turning to oral appliance therapy because they find CPAP uncomfortable.

A qualified sleep dentist can thoroughly assess your condition and recommend the right treatment for you. If you live in the Omaha area and would like to discuss your sleep apnea therapy options, please call the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center at (402) 493-4175.