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Why Every Dental Student Should Study Sleep Apnea

Author: Katie Sowa
Katie Sowa

Katie Sowa

Katie Sowa is a proud member of the DDS Class of 2015 at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston. Katie has served as the first Electronic Editor of the American Student Dental association blog, Mouthing Off, as well as Editor-in-chief for ASDA. Her interests in writing and blogging stem from well before her dental school days and she’s looking forward to sharing her student perspective with The Dental Geek community. Katie completed a dual BS degree in Human Development & Family Sciences and Radio-Television-Film in 2008 from the University of Texas at Austin. Katie grew up in Houston, Texas and plans to pursue general dentistry.
09.22.14 / 9:00 am

In my childhood home, my parents’ room was roughly 20 feet from my bedroom. Every night, my parents’ left our bedrooms doors cracked for safety reasons. Since I’m a dinosaur for dental student standards at the old age of 28, my parents didn’t have intense monitoring systems so their old fashioned ears were the way they checked up on us in the middle of the night. My parents were night owls, so naturally my three siblings and I were fast asleep by the time they made it to bed after watching Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. I remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of a freight train coming from my parents’ bedroom. My parents had the worst snoring problem. I always closed their bedroom door and my own in order to fall back asleep.

Plenty of sleep studies later, it’s no surprise my mom suffers from sleep apnea (my dad is too stubborn to go through a sleep study). Like many patients with sleep apnea, she despises the CPAP machine and continues to suffer from daytime sleepiness. Luckily for my Dad, he snores too, so he can’t really complain about my mom.

As dental students, we spend a lot of time filling out forms on the EPR pertaining to the patient’s medical history. We ask a number of questions to fully understand the patient’s systemic health before treating them. I’m sure any dental student can describe potential dental complications with diabetes or hypertension, but do we really know much about sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea has a significant number of comorbidities such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and congestive heart failure. Sleep apnea is a serious condition that needs more attention by dentists. Sleep apnea often results in car accidents and decreased work/school productivity due to daytime sleepiness. Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) have up to 2-3 times the number of car accidents as individuals without sleep apnea.

I’ve had two experiences at the dental school worth mentioning. Last year, I saw a patient in clinic who was not satisfied with her night guard. She wanted a snore appliance. With the help of my group practice director and another faculty, we took the necessary steps to have a lab fabricate a mandibular advancement device to use at night. These appliances have been clinically proven as an effective treatment for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. This is important as dentists since we can prescribe this form of treatment while working in conjunction with the patient’s physician.  Some patients prefer this form of treatment over a CPAP machine. Perhaps my mom would benefit from this type of appliance.

The other exposure to sleep apnea involves an elective offered during lunchtime once a week with a local dentist and sleep apnea expert. The elective gives me a chance to fully understand the scope of how a dentist fits into the sleep apnea equation. There is a Texas State Board rule adopted this past May involving the dentist’s role in treating patients with OSA. As a future Texas dentist, I feel it’s necessary to educate myself while in school on how to assess and treat these patients. I recommend other students take advantage of any resources involving sleep apnea.

Lets just hope my parents haven’t disconnected my cell phone since I put them on blast on The Dental Geek.

Katie Sowa

Katie Sowa is a proud member of the DDS Class of 2015 at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston. Katie has served as the first Electronic Editor of the American Student Dental association blog, Mouthing Off, as well as Editor-in-chief for ASDA. Her interests in writing and blogging stem from well before her dental school days and she’s looking forward to sharing her student perspective with The Dental Geek community. Katie completed a dual BS degree in Human Development & Family Sciences and Radio-Television-Film in 2008 from the University of Texas at Austin. Katie grew up in Houston, Texas and plans to pursue general dentistry.

Katie Sowa

Katie Sowa

Katie Sowa is a proud member of the DDS Class of 2015 at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston. Katie has served as the first Electronic Editor of the American Student Dental association blog, Mouthing Off, as well as Editor-in-chief for ASDA. Her interests in writing and blogging stem from well before her dental school days and she’s looking forward to sharing her student perspective with The Dental Geek community. Katie completed a dual BS degree in Human Development & Family Sciences and Radio-Television-Film in 2008 from the University of Texas at Austin. Katie grew up in Houston, Texas and plans to pursue general dentistry.

7 responses to “Why Every Dental Student Should Study Sleep Apnea”

  1. Oral appliances for sleep apnea seem to be an excellent help to certain patients with sleep apnea. It is also much less intrusive than those CPAP masks. Great to see such an emerging solution in dentistry.

  2. Katie- I just saw a patient with sleep apnea this month! I’m also looking to work with our faculty to have a custom mouth appliance for my patient.

  3. Definitely this is very important and if it’s associated with obesity and hipertension it’s more probable for us to see patients affected with sleep apnea. Excelent for sharing this in the blog.

  4. Would love to try one of these oral appliances to deal with my sleep apnea. I’ve tried several generic mouth pieces with a little success. When I tried getting one through a dentist, they wanted $3,000 for it. (I checked back with them two years later – same price!!)
    I’ve had custom fitting teeth guards made in the past as well as the old teeth bleaching trays. Nothing ever cost more than $450.
    I know they’re trying to absolutely rape people over the price of these things.
    Any advice on where to get one of these things done correctly and at an appropriate cost? I’m in Houston, TX.

    Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

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