Many people might not normally think about seeing your dentist for a medical treatment, but when it comes to snoring or Obstructive Sleep Apnea your dentist may actually be the first one to notice there could be a problem, according to Dr. Emily Stopper.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a potentially deadly sleep disorder that affects approximately 1 out of 5 people and nearly 80 percent of people who have this disorder are undiagnosed. One of the most common warning signs of OSA is snoring. Some other potential signs of OSA include waking up gasping or choking, excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability and brain fog. Sleep Apnea has been linked to heart attacks, stroke, Atrial Fibrillation, Type II Diabetes, and in untreated severe cases it can take 10 to 12 years off your life. When left untreated, sleep apnea can negatively affect your energy levels, ability to lose weight, and have long-term effects on your heart and body, according to Stopper.
Stopper is noted as a national leader in the critical field of Dental Sleep Medicine. She earned her doctoral degree in dental surgery in 2007 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and recently also earned a distinction as a diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. There are approximately 200,000 dentists in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Only 589 of these dentists have their diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. She also teaches the techniques of Dental Sleep Medicine to other dentists internationally to have a greater impact on patients’ overall health and well-being.
“This is such a significant and widespread disorder that I know I can help more patients by showing other dentists how to treat their patients and help their own communities,” said Stopper.
Dental devices have been used for more than 30 years to treat snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. However, it has recently gained more popularity in the last 5-10 years with the increased awareness of the prevalence of OSA in the population. This simple mouthpiece slightly moves the lower jaw forward during sleep when the air passage is most likely to be constricted, freeing up breathing and allowing more oxygen into the body.
“This revolutionary treatment is critical,” Stopper said, “because it can save your life.”
Stopper’s team has treated hundreds of patients from all over the High Country and surrounding states. People may be more familiar with CPAP for the treatment of OSA, but a dental appliance can very effectively treat mild and moderate cases of OSA, as well as severe cases in which patients are intolerant of CPAP. A medical care provider would prescribe a dental device to treat OSA just like they would prescribe CPAP. Because this is a device used to treat a medical condition, it is approved under medical insurance rather than dental.
Dental professionals have the unique perspective of consistently looking into patients’ airways daily. Screening every patient for potential signs and symptoms is now a recommendation by the American Dental Association. There are many visual signs of OSA, such as worn teeth, enlarged tongue, narrow airway opening, vaulted roof of the mouth, retruded lower jaw, etc. that dental professionals are trained to identify.
Stopper’s dental sleep medicine practice, Sleep & Headache Solutions, is located inside of Mountain Town Dental, the practice begun by her father, Dr. Alvin Jenkins, in 1976.
“I wanted to know that I was doing everything possible for my patients by pursuing and achieving the highest qualifications in the dental sleep medicine field,” Stopper said.
She has done this by placing her sole focus on treating patients with OSA and no longer practices general dentistry. Stopper and her team work closely with medical providers to ensure patients are receiving the best care possible. Call (336) 846-4310 or visit sleepandheadachesolutions.com for more information.