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Snoring/Sleep Apnea


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a very serious condition that is frequently underdiagnosed or missed as harmless snoring. It is published that the average time from onset of symptoms of sleep apnea and diagnosis is 10.7 years.  You do not have to be overweight or even be an adult to have sleep apnea.  There are people with sleep apnea that say they don't even snore.

In obstructive sleep apnea, breathing is interrupted by a physical block in airflow where one or more breaths are missed and occur repeatedly throughout sleep.  In any given night, these apneic events may occur anywhere from 30-50 times per hour and in some, 60 times per hour or more.  A condition like this affects the quality of life of the individual as well as the safety of themselves and those around them.

An individual with sleep apnea may be unaware of any difficulty breathing but it can be recognized as a problem by others witnessing the event. In many situations, the body continues to adequately get oxygen but this may be an early indication of sleep apnea.  A diagnosis must be made by a pulmonologist but can be screened by a dentist with knowledge on the subject.

Many individuals already have the diagnosis of sleep apnea by a medical doctor but find it difficult to wear the CPAP that is the gold standard for treatment.

People with undiagnosed or untreated abstructive sleep apnea are 5 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Sleep apnea effect many physiological functions but the most common side effects are:

  • heart attacks or irregular heart beat
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • heartburn
  • morning headaches
  • dry mouth
  • gastroesophagitis reflux disease (GERD)
  • impaired concentration
  • depression
  • decreased libido
  • irritability
  • chronic sleepiness
  • learning or memory disabilities

Individuals that are at higher risk of developing sleep apnea are those that snore, are overweight, or have high blood pressure. Physical abnormalities in the nose (deviated septums), throat or other parts of the upper airway may also be a contributing factor. However, many do not have these predisposing factors and still be affected by sleep apnea. A better indication is to take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and have a simple screening by a professional.



Dr. Heit does not diagnose sleep apnea-she screens for it.  It does not take long and is part of every routine dental exam Dr. Heit does.  Sleep apnea can be considered a disease of craniofacial anatomy and dentists are in a prime position to screen for it.  If Dr. Heit suspects you have sleep apnea, then she sends you to the pulmonary specialist for diagnosis, treatment options and follow-up.  A letter will be sent to your medical doctor so you are well taken care of.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is one helpful tool in screening sleep disorders, intended to measure the daytime sleepiness by the use of a very short questionnaire. However, a firm diagnosis is only obtained through a sleep study done by a qualified pulmonologist. 

 Epworth Sleepiness Scale 

 Sleepiness Questionaire 

Do not diagnose yourself based on these tools alone.  An examination by a qualified professional is required.


Dentistry could have a solution for you 

Continuous posititive airway pressure or CPAP is the current "Gold Standard" treatment for patients with OSA. A CPAP device produces positive airway pressure which is delivered though a hose connected to a nasal mask while you sleep. The positive pressure prevents the collapse of the airway during sleep.  Since this device does not work if the patient does not wear it, excellent comfort and follow-up is required. 

Although CPAP is considered the Gold Standard for OSA, dentistry could have an additional solution. 

A custom-fitted oral device may be another solution for you, enabling less pressures for a more comfortable and effective CPAP-maybe even eliminating the CPAP all together.  A follow-up sleep study can ensure your sleep problem is being taken care of even if your symptoms are gone.  Dr. Heit works together with your doctors to help titrate your treatment to your best comfort and effective level. 

There is more good news. Your oral device might also help with teeth grinding as well as snoring.

Another dental device, in the early stages of research, can develop your own upper jaw bone to help cure obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Heit has cured sleep apnea with the DNA device, but there are no long term results yet.  For more information on the DNA appliance, please visit the website and read the latest research.  Alternatively, contact Dr. Heit for copies of her recent research that was published in peer reviewed journals and presented at The American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

For doctors and dentists that would like to become certified in the DNA appliance or learn about how the dna appliance can cure obstructive sleep apnea, please visit to register for courses available worldwide or contact Dr. Heit at for more information.


Come in and ask Dr. Heit how she may be able to help you with your sleep apnea and snoring.


Dr. Heit is a general dentist with a special interest in obstructive sleep apnea and craniofacial disorders.

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