We were in the Sun Herald on 9th July 2017!
Health impacts may take your breath away
Headaches, migraines and teeth grinding may be a consequence of having a restricted airway.
For Dr Louis Chan, taking a closer look at the underlying physiological causes of sleep disorders is key to helping more Australians rest easy.
Dr Chan is a dentist whose practice treats people suffering from common sleep dis- orders such as sleep apnoea and insomnia, or chronic pain that hinders sleep.
He believes prescription medicine can contribute to sleep issues, while the real cause of a disorder may go undetected.
“When a person has health issues, we should look into the source of the problem rather than just go to medications,” he says.
Some surveys estimate that between 33-45 per cent of adults are affected by sleep problems.
Dr Chan says the prevalence of sleep disorders can result in many people normalising it, not realising they can be corrected.
“So many people suffer from sleep issues to varying degrees and a lot of them think this is just part of normal life, that it’s normal to feel tired all the time. But we let them know that there may be actual structural, environmental and nutritional factors that affect your body as well,” he says.
“Also, many people don’t associate sleep issues with sugar cravings, cardiovascular disease or even eczema.”
Many of the patients who visit Dr Chan’s TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of Sydney suffer from headaches, migraines and facial pain, and as a result are taking prescription painkillers.
A common example is temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD), a chronic facial pain often caused by an individual clenching their teeth while asleep. Dr Chan says teeth grinding and jaw clenching are often due to a restricted airway, meaning the resulting pain is a symptom of a bigger breathing problem.
“We can help them find out where the blockage most likely is, whether it’s in the nose, whether it’s in the back of the throat or whether they have pharyngeal collapsibility,” he says.
Once a diagnosis is made, the restricted airway can be corrected, resulting in benefits that often go beyond enjoying better sleep.
Dr Chan recently treated an eight-year-old girl who came in for dentalcare. On evaluation, he found nasal problems, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and tongue- and lip-ties. After treatment, her parents found her mood and attention span both improved.
“We got an email from them as a follow up and they’d said, ‘My wife and I joked that we’d brought the wrong child home’,” Dr Chan says.
Another patient in his mid-40s was taking hypertension medication, but Dr Chan says treating the breathing issues causing that patient’s sleep apnoea in turn assisted in bringing his hypertension under control.
“Improving breathing is key,” Dr Chan says. “When we get them to breathe well through the nose, that’s the time that they start to get better.”
Inflammation can be a cause of pain and poor sleep patterns, and one that is often related to a poor diet. The TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre of Sydney team encourage patients to improve their eating habits, referring them to nutritionists if required.
By advocating a holistic approach to sleep disorders, Dr Chan believes practitioners from a range of disciplines need to work together on a patient’s behalf.
“Like-minded dentists, GPs, specialists, chiropractors and osteopaths can work together to help patients to recover and have more optimal health,” he says.