Combatting Airway Disease

Identifying causes, complications and treatment of sleep apnea, a vital concern in the era of COVID-19.
Luca Huter

By Dr. Gerry Curatola 

According to a recent study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, roughly 12 percent of U.S. adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), an alarming threat to overall health, especially respiratory health. The worst part is that an estimated 80 percent of people with severe OSA don’t even know they have the condition, and nearly half of adults globally aged 30 to 69 are undiagnosed and untreated. Sleep apnea, undiagnosed and untreated, puts patients at high risk from COVID-19 and many other diseases.

In 2021, the last thing you should do is ignore a serious health condition like this one. Sleep apnea, a disorder in which shallow or interrupted breathing interferes with deep sleep, occurs in part because the tongue does not have enough space to rest properly during slumber. This silent epidemic has grown over time, possibly due to increasing rates of obesity and the popularity of fatty fast-food diets, which lead to inflammation and nutrition depletion. Normal breathing, quiet and effortless, allows the body to go into restorative sleep and awaken refreshed. Snoring and sleep apnea, both abnormal breathing patterns, are not healthy. My Rejuvenation Dentistry practices in Manhattan and East Hampton offer new, innovative, integrative approaches to airway health and sleep medicine that addresses the most common cause of sleep apnea: a compromised airway.

There are three types of sleep apnea: OSA, the most common, occurs due to a restricted airway, usually from the soft tissue and tongue in the back of the throat, leading to compromised breathing through the nose. Central sleep apnea (CSA), less prevalent than OSA, occurs when the brain does not signal the muscles that control breathing. Mixed sleep apnea (MSA) is a combination of CSA and OSA.

Sleep apnea increases the risk for severe complications related to COVID-19, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, erectile dysfunction and hormonal issues leading to infertility. It can also contribute to depression, respiratory illness, gastroesophageal  reflux disease (GERD), bruxism (teeth grinding), ADHD symptom sin kids/teens, excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia, nightmares and motor vehicle accidents.

While most treatments for sleep apnea simply try to address the symptom of interrupted breathing, the DNA Appliance, or Daytime Nighttime Appliance oral device, targets the root of most sleep-disordered breathing—too narrow a mouth and too small a jaw trying to fit a tongue that simply doesn’t have enough space. To borrow an analogy from a fellow biologic dentist and author, Dr. Felix Liao, it’s like “a 6-foot tiger trying to live in a 3-foot cage.” The adjustable DNA appliance gently stretches your arches, so the tongue has plenty of space and no longer blocks your airway at night. It is safer and more effective than a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. Unlike CPAP or any other sleep apnea treatment, the DNA is a temporary treatment that offers a permanent solution.