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Posted: May 6, 2019
Why do we screen for health risks and take your blood pressure so often? It’s ‘just a dental office’ after all!
It has long been known that the mouth is the window to health. A huge number and variety of significant disease processes show up in the mouth, and often show up first in the mouth! On top of that, there are several life-threatening problems that can be managed and avoided if we pay attention to what we find in the mouth, so at Aesthetic Dentistry of Georgetown, we have committed ourselves to being comprehensive in your care.
If you are frustrated by hypertension or high blood pressure, there may be some things you can do to help manage it! As we have discovered more about the risks and consequences of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, it has changed everything about how we see your health! For instance, snoring isn’t simply a nuisance to your spouse. For some people, it is just annoying, but the vast majority of people who snore loudly enough to wake up someone else, the snoring is your body screaming for help!
One of the other key early warnings is high blood pressure. If you are happen to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, what that means is that you stop breathing often enough and long enough that your body is paying a price for it, and is trying to defend itself. One of the ways our bodies respond to that emergency is flip the ‘fight or flight’ response switch. It’s seen as an emergency and initiates a sympathetic response with each apnea (you stop breathing) or hypopnea (you take dangerously shallow breaths) and this causes a few issues.
In this sympathetic response crisis, the heart rate and blood pressure both increase, and since there are often hundred of events a night, the body stays on high alert all night. That prevents you getting good restorative sleep and lingers throughout the day as well. Also, since the body isn’t getting enough oxygen because you aren’t breathing, it is not converting enough oxygen to nitric oxide. One of the many jobs of nitric oxide is to open your blood vessels appropriately and without it, the blood vessels narrow. Then the lining of the blood vessels breaks down and they are more susceptible to plaque and fatty tissues buildup in the narrow vessels. This creates a dramatic increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke.
This compromised system is still responsible for getting oxygen to the body and when the apneas and hypopneas create a lack of available oxygen, the brain recognizes this and sends a message to the circulatory system to increase the amount of blood delivered to the brain to improve oxygen levels. The circulatory system kicks into overtime and tries harder to push more blood to the body, but with narrow and stiff blood vessels, this increased blood flow simply increases pressure on the vessels walls and elevates blood pressure to dangerous levels. Of course, with the higher pressure in the narrow and plaque lined arteries, you are more likely to dislodge the plaque stuck in those arteries and are caught in a dangerous and often, life-threatening cycle.
Sleep is important. It makes you feel good to get a good night of sleep, and we understand more and more about why that is! During various stages of sleep, your body will repair itself, assimilate thoughts into long-term memories, regulate hormones that control everything from weight management to sexual performance, and obviously rest. Without proper quantity and quality of sleep, you have an increased risk of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, a wide range of cancers, erectile dysfunction, weight gain, anxiety, and the list goes on. Part of our Risk Assessment includes screening for the medications you are taking. If you have to use anxiety medications, migraine/headache medication, multiple blood pressure medications, and a range of others, there is a very good chance there is a sleep/airway issue that isn’t being managed well enough.
At Aesthetic Dentistry of Georgetown, we have home-screening devices to get some better metrics on the quantity and quality of your sleep. The device is simple to wear and gives you some powerful information to make better health care choices for yourself. The fee for the test is $250, but for our patients of record, we provide this important screening as a courtesy. Your health is important to us and if there is something impacting the sleep you are getting, we want to help you find solutions!