Diagnosing Sleep Apnea: Epiworth Sleepiness Scale

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea: Epiworth Sleepiness Scale

At Leading Dentists we focus on neuromuscular dentistry and TMJ disorders.  Recently there has been a big response from the LVI trained dentists that we are in contact with regarding patients suffering from both TMJ and Sleep Apnea.  In many cases they are finding success reducing or eliminating these obstructive breathing symptoms by treating jaw alignment issues.  With National Sleep Awareness week coming up we will be focusing on TMD and sleep disorders starting with sleep apnea and how it relates to disorders of the jaw.

Although awareness of the potentially deadly sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has increased in both the public eye and the health care profession, it is thought that only about 10 percent of those who suffer from OSA are undergoing treatment.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea, a condition in which your breathing stops multiple times as you sleep. As its name indicates, OSA is caused by an airway obstruction.

Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Because OSA intermittently deprives your body of oxygen, it typically results in increased heart rate and blood pressure. Untreated, OSA can increase your risk for serious health problems including:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiac arrhythmia

In addition, because your brain suffers from oxygen deprivation and must constantly awaken to restore breathing, you may never reach the deeper, restorative stages of sleep necessary to maintain full cognitive function. People who suffer from OSA experience daytime sleepiness, memory loss, and an inability to concentrate. This can be very dangerous.

A study by Vancouver Health Research Institute and the University of British Columbia showed that OSA sufferers have twice the risk of being in a car crash and three to five times the risk of being in a serious crash involving personal injury.

Sleep apnea research indicates that about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 3 men suffer from OSA. However, a vast majority of those with OSA don’t seek treatment or are unaware that they have the condition.

Diagnosing and Treating OSA

The primary problem with diagnosing and treating OSA is that sleep apnea falls between the cracks of medical professions. Few physicians have specialized training in assessing and treating sleep apnea.

That said, a growing number of dentists are pursuing sleep apnea education at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies (LVI), the world’s premier postgraduate dental institution. These progressive dentists have developed an understanding of OSA screening, treatment and patient support.

Today, there are a number of OSA treatment options available, including surgery, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, and dental appliances designed to maintain an open airway. Proper treatment is effective in 70% of patients.

Dental appliances are the most convenient form of sleep apnea treatment, and offer the following benefits without surgery:

  • Significant reduction in apneas for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea patients
  • Reduction in the volume and occurrence of snoring

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale

One of the tools used in the early assessment stages for sleep apnea is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Although this is not intended to diagnose sleep apnea alone, it can be useful in determining if you have symptoms of a sleep disorder that requires treatment.

Using the following scale, assign the appropriate number for how likely you are to doze off or fall asleep as opposed to just feeling drowsy in each situation described below.

0 = Would never doze
1 = Slight chance of dozing
2 = Moderate chance of dozing
3 = High chance of dozing

Sitting and reading
Watching TV
Sitting passively in a public place (such as in a movie theater or during a meeting)
As a passenger in a car for an hour without a break
Lying down to rest in the afternoon
Sitting and having a conversation with someone
Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol
Sitting in a car while stopped for a few minutes during traffic
Total your score and compare with the scale below.

0-10: Normal range
10-12: Borderline
12-24: Abnormal

Click here for a copy of this test that you can print.


Related TMJ Articles:   Choosing a TMJ Mouthguard

More on Sleep Apnea:

Categories CPAP Sleep Apnea Sleep Appliance
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