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Treatment for Sleep Apnea May Assist in Weight Loss Donald Tanenbaum DDS

Treatment for Sleep Apnea May Assist in Weight Loss

Author: Donald Tanenbaum DDS MPH - Board-Certified Orofacial Pain Specialist at New York TMJ & Orofacial Pain

Date: July 31, 2012

While on a recent airplane flight to Chicago, I was unfortunately sitting across from a young man around thirty years old who was sleeping fitfully. From his outward appearance he was not overly tall, likely about 5’11” but clearly overweight particularly in the midsection.

With each breath came a snoring (or roaring) sound accompanied occasionally by a gasp for air. It was clear that this young gentleman had the appearance of obstructive sleep apnea and one can only wonder about his future if he did not address this problem with weight loss or medical intervention.

This scenario of young men and women snoring excessively is played out daily across America and the reason most of the time is obesity. Though there are many individuals that snore and develop obstructive sleep apnea, due to large tonsils and small airways due to thin necks and set back lower jaws, the problem is most commonly seen in overweight people.

For these individuals their calorie intake continues to exceed the calories they burn with the end result of fat being deposited in the neck and airway along with their midsections. Once established these patterns of weight gain are hard to reverse taking tremendous self control and discipline.

The end result unfortunately is not only a disturbed bed partner and daytime fatigue but new evidence suggests that a persistent obstructive sleep apnea condition can weaken the body’s immune system and increase the risk for cancer, as the results of a recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Management suggests.

What is also interesting is that once an obstructive sleep apnea problem has been established with the associated oxygen deficits while sleeping, there is also a disruption of the delicate hormonal balance that controls appetite and hunger patterns.

As a result it has been shown that moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea conditions often impair weight loss efforts despite caloric control and increased exercise. As a result of this reality, a great number of patients in our office are using oral appliance therapy while sleeping and as a result are breathing better and losing the weight that they were unable to previously shed. As an end result, their improved airway capacity will most certainly reduce their risk of cancer in the future and help all of us rest peacefully on our next airplane flight.

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, we in no way offer a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendation for your particular situation. Our intent is solely educational and our responses to your actual questions serve as a springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in a day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified professional.

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