As a dentist, you may be considering the idea of incorporating sleep apnea therapy into your practice. Understanding the importance of treating a patient who is unable to breathe throughout the night and achieve adequate rest, you realize the toll obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can take on the body. But is it possible that it can be a risk factor for COVID-19, too? As you contemplate this new venture amid a global pandemic, read on to learn why it’s now more vital than ever before that dentists take the next step and offer appropriate care and treatment for patients with sleep apnea.
COVID-19 Risk Factor: Can Sleep Apnea Make You More Susceptible?
According to a small cohort study based in Finland, researchers from the University of Turku discovered that among 28 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and were transferred to the Turku University Hospital for care, 29% were already suffering from sleep apnea. Although the study involves a small number of patients, the results led researchers to spend time analyzing hospital records to learn if OSA can be considered a risk factor for this highly contagious virus.
While one can attribute obesity, which was high among these individuals, as a risk factor for both sleep apnea and COVID-19, researchers discovered other similar factors shared between the two conditions. According to findings referenced in their study, “Intermittent hypoxemia is one of the main pathologic features of OSA and could potentially worsen hypoxemia caused by Covid-19.” Also, hypercoagulability, which is an increased risk for thrombosis, is a shared concern found among individuals suffering from both sleep apnea and COVID-19.
Why Sleep Dentists are Vital
Although it may seem difficult to understand how a dentist can adequately treat a patient living with sleep apnea, the reality is that as a professional, you can be at the forefront in helping someone achieve a better quality of life and potentially lower their risk for COVID-19.
Through regular dental checkups, dentists are capable of asking questions, examining the oral cavity and facial structures, and determining if factors associated with sleep apnea exist. If so, you can refer them for a sleep study to receive a formal diagnosis. Once achieved, you can work closely with these patients to identify appropriate treatment solutions that will allow them to breathe easier and rest better but also safeguard their health and wellbeing as it pertains to COVID-19.
While treating sleep apnea is not the only way a person can improve their chances of avoiding the virus, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
About 21st Century Sleep Seminars
Dr. Kent Smith is a top professional in sleep medicine who has experience in treating, writing, and speaking about sleep disorders. His wealth of knowledge has helped other dentists integrate sleep apnea treatment into their practices. At 21st Century Sleep Seminars, we can provide you with the information, tips, advice, and network of professionals you need to effectively treat these sleep disorders your patients are facing. To learn more, visit our website or call (972) 255-3712.