Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Orthodontic Problem May Increase Risk For Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea often is linked with obesity. But not everyone with sleep apnea is obese. In non-obese men, a study has linked an orthodontic problem with a common type of sleep apnea.

Researchers from Ars Orthodontics Clinic in Japan did the study. They examined 97 men with obstructive sleep apnea. Of those men, 42 had a large gap between their upper and lower front teeth. Because of this gap, the upper front teeth stick out past the lower front teeth when the mouth is closed. This gap is called an overjet.

In obese men, obesity was linked with sleep apnea. In men who were not obese, those who had an overjet were more likely to have sleep apnea. In people with overjet, the upper and lower jaws do not line up properly. The lower jaw lines up behind the upper jaw. Because the lower jaw is pushed back behind the upper jaw, it can block the throat when sleeping.

Overjet usually can be corrected or lessened with braces.

Sleep apnea affects more than 12 million people in the United States. It is more common in men and in people older than 40. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when a person's airway is blocked during sleep. This usually happens when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses. Each time it happens, the person wakes up momentarily, so sleep quality can be very poor.

If it is not treated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, memory problems and other difficulties.

The study appears in the September 16 issue of the journal Internal Medicine