If you’re over the age 65, you may have new aches and pains every day. Perhaps your stamina isn’t what it used to be, or you don’t have the energy to exercise like you did a few years ago. Well, according to a Reuter’s study of over 13,000 Americans, from December 2013, 15 to 24-year olds report being more tired than seniors. So why are you so tired?
The problem may be in your mouth!
Risk for developing a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, increases two and three times up to age 65. Seniors who suffer with high blood pressure or diabetes may experience greater issues with these conditions if they also suffer from sleep apnea. The good news is, OSA is easily treatable with an oral appliance, and effective treatment can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk for diabetes complications, as well as other health problems common to seniors.
Want more good news? Medicare covers the cost of treating OSA with a DME appliance. Most insurances also cover the cost. Our office is the only dental practice in the Delaware Valley to participate in Medicare.
What is OSA?
Obstructive means that something is in the way; in this case, something is in the way of free airflow to and from the lungs. Apnea literally means a lapse. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when a structure, usually soft tissues of the mouth and throat, completely block the airway of someone during sleep. Breathing can cease completely for 10 seconds or more, and these apnea episodes may repeat hundreds of times throughout a sleep session. When the body does not have sufficient oxygen, the brain kicks into fight or flight mode and says, “Wake up and breathe!” The OSA sufferer may be slightly aroused from slumber or become completely awake. Oftentimes, the waking is accompanied by choking, coughing, or gasping for a breath. Seniors who already struggle with insomnia can experience even greater sleep disturbances if OSA is present.
An OSA patient will not reach REM sleep as often and for as long as he should. Combined with the lack of breathing for repeated periods, the patient may experience a long list of symptoms, ranging from daytime fatigue to morning headaches to memory and mood issues. Because seniors may be on medications or have other ailments that cause some of these symptoms, the effects could be more intense if OSA is present.
Related Health Issues
Breathing provides the body with the oxygen it requires for many functions. Because obstructive sleep apnea involves lack of oxygen, it has been linked to other health conditions. These include, but are not limited to, hypertension, heart disease (atrial fibrillation), insulin resistance (diabetes), depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), and even death.
One of the most prevalent health complications is hypertension, or high blood pressure, which affects more than two-thirds of Americans over age 65 regardless of the presence of OSA. Within four years of developing OSA, nearly half of patients will develop hypertension, without age as a factor. On the flip side, up to 80% of patients taking multiple medications to treat hypertension may have OSA. The good news is, by treating OSA, blood pressure usually decreases.
An abnormal heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation is treated by cardioversion, which involves resetting the atrium so that it beats with the ventricle. For patients with OSA, there is an 80% chance of atrial fibrillation recurring; non-OSA patients have only a 50% risk of recurrence. (Source)
Complications and OSA
The following health complications have a greater prevalence of death in patients with OSA. They are listed in order of prevalence, most to least.
- Atrial fibrillation and flutter
- Congestive heart failure
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Chronic ischemic heart disease
- Essential hypertension
- Angina pectoris
- Pure hypercholestermia
- Chronic renal failure
Treatment and Insurance/Medicare Coverage
Risk factors for OSA include being overweight (BMI over 30) and/or having a thick neck (circumference greater than 15 inches). Hypertension, diabetes, genetic predisposition, and narrow airway also increase risk for OSA. Men are more prone to develop OSA than are women, and alcohol can worsen the condition. However, anyone can suffer from OSA, so if you think you may have OSA, it’s important to see a doctor.
Dr. Stephen Gershberg treats obstructive sleep apnea with an oral appliance called a mandibular advancement device. The device keeps soft tissues in the mouth and throat from blocking airflow while you sleep, and because they are DMA products, insurance often covers the appliance. Medicare also covers the appliance, and Dr. Gershberg’s office is one of the few dental practices – the only one in the Delaware Valley — that participates in Medicare. Furthermore, Dr. Gershberg is a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) and has advanced training in treating OSA.
You may be just one visit away from restful, fulfilling sleep that could change your life. Call 610-527-6700 to schedule your appointment in our Bryn Mawr dental office, located on the Main Line.