Do you often treat patients who are related to one another? If so, you may have noticed that they sometimes struggle with similar dental problems. They might also complain of having the same symptoms that affect other areas of their body. Indeed, genetics can be a major influencer on a person’s head-to-toe health. It can even have a bearing on a person’s risk for developing sleep apnea. This blog post explores why that is the case and how you may be able to help patients who suffer from this disorder.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Genetic Factors
Obstructive sleep apnea, often referred to simply as OSA, is a condition characterized by repeated pauses in breathing, called apneas, throughout the night. The apneas occur when tissues in the throat block the free flow of air.
There are a few ways in which genetics can influence a person’s risk of developing OSA:
- Body shape and composition. Some individuals are genetically inclined to be obese, and obesity is a well-established risk factor for OSA. Genes can also affect where on the body fat is prone to accumulate; people with more fatty tissue around their abdomen and neck are at a heightened risk of suffering from nighttime breathing problems.
- Airway and facial anatomy. Genes can have a significant impact on the shape of a person’s facial and airway structures. For example, a person’s DNA could endow them with crooked teeth, a deviated septum, or other anatomical features that contribute to breathing problems during sleep.
- Sleep schedule. Research suggests that genetics can play a role in an individual’s natural sleep rhythms, including when they sleep and the quality of their sleep. Such factors could influence whether a person is likely to suffer from OSA.
What Can Be Done?
Although many people have some genetic risk factors for OSA, they may still be able to reduce their chances of developing this condition. They can do things like:
- Be careful to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Practice good sleep hygiene.
- Make smart lifestyle choices that promote uninterrupted breathing during sleep. This can include things like cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, sleeping on their side, and avoiding exposure to allergens if possible.
- Get orthodontic treatment to address dental misalignment.
The Dentist’s Role in Managing Sleep Apnea
In some cases, there is no way for an individual to prevent sleep apnea. However, effective treatments are available. As a dentist, you are in an ideal position to help patients recognize the signs of OSA. You can also learn how to evaluate a patient’s airway and explore their options for treating nighttime breathing problems. Many people are candidates for a custom oral appliance, which you can become qualified to provide after just a little training.
Millions of people are at-risk of developing OSA. Fortunately, you can empower your patients to breathe easily and enjoy improved health.
About 21st Century Sleep Seminars
Dr. Kent Smith is a seasoned sleep dentist who is widely regarded as an expert in his field. He regularly hosts training sessions to help his fellow oral health professionals offer life-changing OSA treatment. To learn more about him and the training opportunities he provides, contact 21st Century Sleep Seminars at 817-318-6352.