Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing during the time a person is asleep. It can be a total obstruction of breathing, which is the typical definition of sleep apnea, and it can also be partial interruptions of breathing, both of which are quite serious and interrupts the person's ability to get into a deep sleep to get the restorative sleep they need, says Dr. Catherine McGregor, dentist in Lyndhurst, Ontario, Canada.
A dental office is ideal for screening a person who might have sleep apnea as often, a person is not aware they have a condition, Dr. McGregor says. At her dental practice, Lyndhurst Dental and the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre, she reviews the patient's medical history to see if they have a prescription history of more than one anti-hypertensive medication and to see if they have diabetes.
In addition to a medical history, Dr. McGregor reviews the sleep questionnaire she provides her patients and a patient may check off that they've been told they snore, that they stop breathing during sleep, wake up several times at night or have daytime fatigue - all of which are indicative that there may be a sleep breathing disorder.
Sleep apnea can be screened or diagnosed in a couple of different ways. Typically, says Dr. McGregor, the official way is to see a medical person in a sleep lab and have a full polysomnogram. In her office, she will "fast track" someone she thinks has a serious problem by doing a home sleep study. In Ontario, where her dental practice is based, the waiting times for testing in a sleep lab can sometimes be long. She will especially recommend home sleep testing if a person has already had a sleep breathing disorder diagnosis. Dr. McGregor looks for a baseline score to treat them with an oral sleep appliance.
Typically, by definition, only medical personnel can do the actual diagnosis of sleep apnea, says Dr. McGregor, so she works very closely with her medical colleagues in sleep labs.
Dr. Catherine McGregor is a dentist with Lyndhurst Dental in Lyndhurst Ontario Canada and the TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of Eastern Ontario. Dr. McGregor is also a leading sleep expert with Sleep Better TV.