Straight Teeth Talk: Medical problems due to sleep apnea

By Mac Lee
Nov. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.

Editor's note: This is a first in a series of articles related to sleep apnea. Dr. Gus Sandigo is providing the medical advice.

Have you ever wondered how snoring became comical? We always thought grandpa was so funny, sitting in his recliner making all those sounds.

Even the cartoons showed "Zzz's," representing loud noises. Society has been trained to think snoring is funny and that it's normal. In reality, extreme snoring is associated with sleep apnea, a condition that can kill. Due to lack of public education, a huge percentage of the U.S. adult population suffers from the disorder, and most remain undiagnosed.

The following medical conditions sound like the after effects of medication advertised on TV, but in reality, they are the complications that can occur because of snoring/apnea. Each one of the situations below come with its own excuses: "I have insomnia because..." or "I am sleepy during the day because..."

Each of the following symptoms can be mild, but that doesn't mean they are not important. The message is that all symptoms below can be because of sleep apnea. They are only a checklist, not a diagnosis.

Irritability, anxiety, depression, memory loss (silent brain infarcts), poor concentration, personality changes

Nocturia (bathroom trips at night)


Lack of energy

Sexual problems, erectile dysfunction

Nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux disease

High blood pressure

Heart attack, palpitations

Obvious signs, symptoms

Who has apnea and who doesn't is a combination of common sense and modern technology. The only way to properly diagnose sleep problems is with a formal sleep study. Most people who have apnea fit one or more of the categories below.


Gasping for air during sleep

Daytime sleepiness



Big neck

Good, bad news

The good news is that the dangers of sleep apnea can be overcome and controlled through various means. The bad news is that people simply don't want to find out they have apnea because of the unknown life changes the diagnosis may bring. The only way to overcome the bad news is with proper education, which is the purpose of this series of articles.

Apnea is serious enough for doctors, dentists, sleep centers, patients and the families of people who snore to work together for individual solutions to overcome any negativity in diagnosis or treatment.

As a dentist, I cannot legally diagnose apnea, but I do work with various sleep doctors, and I'm working with Sandigo on these articles.

In the next article, we will discuss the different kinds of apnea and different needed treatments.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an adviser to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit or call 361-782-7191.



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