Jun 10, 2020 | By Nancy H. Rothstein, MBA, The SLeep Ambassador® and Director of Sleep Health at Resonea
For many who suspect they or one they love is at risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the road to and fears about diagnosis and treatment are big enough impediments to keep them from taking steps to address the issue. In fact, OSA is a disease that when left untreated can result in significant health challenges and other diseases which have both short and long-term consequences.
With an estimated 26% of the adult population having OSA of which an estimated 85% remain undiagnosed nor treated, a public health crisis presents risks to individuals and to the public at large. From health care and other economic costs to safety risks, the impact of this disease looms large.
So what’s keeping individuals from taking charge of their health and taking action to get diagnosed and treated? One stark issue is the attitude, “I don’t want to wear that mask,” a reference to the gold standard of OSA treatment, CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). While CPAP has excellent efficacy when used and the research to support it, many users jettison the treatment and put their CPAP in the closet. Be it due to lack of comfort or underwhelming support for use by the prescriber or provider of the CPAP, the fact is that not using treatment puts the OSA patient back at square one with significant, unaddressed health risks.
Unfortunately, people with OSA undergoing the progression from diagnosis to treatment are often not informed about alternative treatments, one of which we will focus on here: Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT). Usually administered by a dentist, one who should be trained and certified in Dental Sleep Medicine, OAT may offer a viable alternative to CPAP. Research suggests that the average CPAP user wears it significantly less than the recommended full night of use, whereas the average OAT user tends to wear the appliance most if not all of the night. Do you want to be treated ALL night or for just a portion, leaving you at risk for a significant part of your sleep, not to mention the impact on your sleep quality when OSA is left untreated.
Here are a few highlights to inform you about OAT:
The research on the effectiveness of OAT continues to grow.
OAT device options are evolving, offering advanced technology to ensure efficacy and comfort.
If exploring OAT, be sure that the practitioner you use is trained in OAT. Build a bridge between your sleep specialist and your Dental Sleep Medicine practitioner to ensure that you receive collaborative care, including follow up analysis to assess that your treatment is effective.
Become informed about OSA and other sleep breathing/airway disorders.
In short, it behooves anyone at risk for OSA or already diagnosed but not compliant with treatment, such as with CPAP, to become informed about alternatives for treatment and to take action. Doing nothing is not a viable option for your health and well-being. If your physician is unresponsive to your treatment challenges, seek counsel elsewhere from a medical professional trained to care for OSA and well versed in treatment options.
Only you can take charge of your sleep. That said, for effective and healthy sleep, both quality and quantity, you may need the support of experts for OSA diagnosis and treatment. OAT may offer an effective pathway for you to adhere to treatment and honor your health…today and for your future.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2014, Rising presence of sleep apnea in the U.S. threatens public health, https://aasm.org/rising-prevalence-of-sleep-apnea-in-u-s-threatens-public-health/
Harvard Health Sleep, Health Consequences, http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/sleep-apnea/living-with-osa/health-consequences
American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Oral Appliance Therapy, https://www.aadsm.org/oral_appliance_therapy.php
Journal of Otolaryngoloty- Head & Neck Surgery, Trends in CPAP Adherence over twenty years of data collection: a flattened curve, 2016. https://journalotohns.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40463-016-0156-0
NHLBI, Sleep Apnea, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-apnea