In this podcast, Dr. Nammy Patel talks with John Maher about sleep apnea. She explains how the lack of breathing can affect your whole body health. Then, she outlines solutions that are more effective than the traditional CPAP machine.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Marron. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental, health and whole body health. And author of the best selling books, Age with Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living and Total Wellness: Understanding the Link Between Your Teeth and Your Health. Today, our topic is sleep apnea and dentistry. Welcome Dr. Nammy.
Nammy Patel: Hi, John. Thank you for having me.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
John: Sure. Dr. Nammy, what is sleep apnea?
Dr. Nammy: Sleep apnea is when someone is sleeping and stops breathing at night. That’s what we call sleep apnea. So for example, let’s say you were sleeping at night and your tongue tends to fall back and stops your breathing. So your body actually has to raise blood pressure. It has to make you grind your teeth to try to get that tongue out of the way or wake you up. That’s what we call sleep apnea, is when you actually stop breathing.
Connection Between Sleep Apnea and Dentistry
John: Okay, well that doesn’t sound like it would be good for you, but how are sleep apnea and dentistry connected?
Dr. Nammy: Sleep apnea and dentistry are related, very, very, very importantly. The number one thing is that sleep apnea is part of the airway, right? We are talking about someone who has to stop breathing, so that’s your airway. And the one thing that keeps us alive, or the one thing that we cannot live without is oxygen. So as we’re babies, the first part of the body that is part of the airway and that develops is actually your tongue.
As your tongue develops, your sinus cavities develop and so does your airway. And what happens is that if somebody has had teeth extracted and has braces, what happens is that the sinuses are super constricted and that tongue doesn’t have enough space. So if the tongue doesn’t have space as you lay down to sleep, it actually can’t create a suction and it’ll actually fall back and block your trachea. It’ll stop you from breathing.
How Does Sleep Apnea Affect Your Teeth?
John: And what effects does that have on your mouth and your teeth?
Dr. Nammy: So if somebody has sleep apnea, they are number one, going to be grinding and clenching their teeth, mainly because if there is no air, your body’s going to do anything it can. So we have the autonomic nervous system, which means there are certain things that are out of our control. And then there is the conscious nervous system where we’re able to control movement.
For example, our muscles, we can control our muscles. The tongue is a muscle. It is under conscious control. Unconscious control is going to be your skeleton. It’s going to be anything that we need in order to survive or in order … like your heartbeat, you can’t control your heart rate. Your heart’s going to beat no matter what. And so what happens if you stop breathing, your body’s going to start grinding because it is under unconscious control to try to move that tongue out of the way. So that’s a number one thing we find in patients is we find broken teeth, we find gum recession, we find lots of crowns, lots of root canals, and a lot of teeth breakage. That’s number one.
The second thing we find in patients with sleep apnea is that they end up having a ton of gum disease, mainly because they will have to open their mouth to breathe because that’s the only way they can get their tongue out of the way. So the mouth is super dry, it makes bacteria stick to the teeth, and there is a ton of gum disease and bone loss in those areas as far as dental health is concerned.
Beyond that, sleep apnea actually has a lot of other concerns, including anxiety, depression, autoimmune disorders, and cancer. A lot of different things that someone like you or somebody on the street may not know is related to dentistry or has to do with the fact that someone has sleep apnea. Nobody would correlate sleep apnea with high blood pressure. What happens to your body when someone has apnea and you stop breathing is your body responds to it.
There’s too much carbon dioxide in the body, so it will raise blood pressure and it will also increase your heart rate. So as that happens over time, someone is diagnosed with hypertension, then somebody’s going to be diagnosed with heart disease and then somebody’s going to be diagnosed with diabetes. Because as your blood pressure rises, it’s going to use up a lot of that sugar or the ATP that the body reserves have, so then it’s going to cause your insulin resistance and that’s when people end up with diabetes over time.
And we hear this day in and day out, after 40, high blood pressure is super common, diabetes is super common, heart attacks, heart disease are super common. And the reality of it all is that it stems many times from obstructive sleep apnea or something we call upper airway resistance.
How to Deal With Sleep Apnea?
John: And what are two options that you deal with to treat sleep apnea?
Dr. Nammy: So the standard for sleep apnea is going to be a CPAP, which is a machine that a medical doctor is going to provide, but there are better options that you’re not having to be dependent on for a lifetime. And I’m so proud to be one of the providers that does something called a Homeoblock and the Vivos appliances. These appliances activate the stem cells in the palette to create more space for the tongue so it can recreate that suction. It also expands a lower mandible or the lower jaw so that we can increase the size of the airway. These are wonderful products that you are one and done. So once you’re done with it, it actually creates proper suction so you don’t have to have a CPAP. I like to think of it, technically we can’t say we can cure it, but it’s more or less likely a cure that doesn’t make you dependent on a device for a lifetime. And that’s one of the main reasons why I love the Homeoblock, and I love the DNA appliances or the Vivos appliances.
Oral Appliances Vs. CPAP for Sleep Apnea
John: Okay. Tell me a little bit more about the CPAP and why you prefer oral appliances to that.
Dr. Nammy: A CPAP is a mask. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a commercial when somebody’s wearing this scary mask that goes on your face. It’s very uncomfortable. You can’t sleep properly. And the problem with it is that you still end up breathing through the mouth because the majority of the people that have problems with sleep apnea, the tongue is not in the proper position, it’s mainly because the upper arch is too narrow.
We actually need to expand that upper arch to create that suction. And as we do that, we’re able to expand the nose and with a dental appliance, get you breathing through the nose. CPAPs are going to make you breathe through the mouth, which doesn’t help any because you’re not getting the valuable material called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is what helps the body fight cancer, fight heart disease lowers cortisol, and that’s what’s needed. And that’s why nose breathing is super important. When somebody’s breathing through a CPAP machine, they’re still breathing through the mouth.
Nitric Oxide and Breathing Through Your Nose
John: So you only get that nitric oxide when you are breathing through your nose. Is that that correct?
Dr. Nammy: Yep. It’s kind of like eating processed food that’s kind of like a CPAP versus eating wholesome organic foods, which is breathing through the nose. And our goal is always to get your breathing through the nose.
John: And you said with the oral appliances that you could wear these for a while and then at some point you may not have to wear them anymore. It’s almost like a cure.
Dr. Nammy: Yeah, so the beauty is that we’re trying to create suction. So the best way to create suction is by anatomically expanding the upper arch. As we anatomically expand the upper arch, we are going to create a suction so that your body naturally creates a holding spot for the tongue, so it never falls back.
Contact Green Dentistry to Get Help With Sleep Apnea
John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: My pleasure, John.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call 415-433-0119.