Breathing Life Into Our Future

Feature article from the DeW Life Magazine Winter 2020

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Every why I have or at least those that are etched into my soul have arisen from tragedy.

If you’ve ever faced a significant crisis in your life, you probably experienced the power of purpose.  You learned to tap reserves of energy, grit and courage you likely didn’t know you had.

Your mission was clear…                                                                                            Your goal was compelling…                                                                                       Your focus was laser-like…                                                                                           Your potential was tapped…

Having a clear sense of purpose lets us focus all our efforts on what matters most. This is what compels us to pursue and persist regardless of what the odds are or the obstacles we face.

“He who has a why can endure any how.”

It was this “why,” this passion for answers that led me on my path of learning and discovery for treatment options and solutions for sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing.

You see, my “why” started with losing my father-in-law to complications related to sleep apnea and not wanting the same fate for my husband. Because my husband had resigned himself to the fact that this was genetic, he thought it was meant to be. But I refused to accept that as the status quo. I knew there were answers that would help not just our family but the countless others, adults as well as kids, who are suffering similar fates. This is what led me on my journey deep into the world of sleep-disordered breathing and its effects on not only those that suffer but also their loved ones.

As we incorporated screening tools and started to have conversations with our patients, word spread. I started seeing patients refer their friends and family to us because they just didn’t know there were options. The CPAP, we know, is the gold standard for treating patients who have sleep apnea. But that comes with its own set of challenges. Seventy percent of patients who are prescribed a CPAP are unable to use it due to a multitude of reasons. In kids, it can prevent the growth of the premaxilla which presents a problem in a growing child.

As my “family” of people who I wanted to help grew, I quickly came to the realization that if I could treat kids suffering from sleep apnea I would not have to treat them as adults. Nor would they have to grow up suffering from the effects of sleep-disordered breathing.

The little girl leading this movement for me on a personal level was Avery.

Avery is my Office Manager Christina’s seven-year-old. When we identified the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea in her followed by a diagnosis, it lit a fire in me, pushing for solutions.

Adults suffering from sleep apnea typically present with snoring, daytime drowsiness, frequent nighttime urination and are witnessed choking or gasping for breath. The lack of oxygen to the brain and the various organs puts them at a higher risk for heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. We hear of too many young lives lost due to heart attacks or cardiac disorders because of sleep apnea.

In contrast, children that suffer from sleep-disordered breathing present very differently from adults. Common signs and symptoms of a child who is suffering from sleep-disordered breathing, which leads to reduced oxygen reaching the brain, are snoring, mouth breathing, bedwetting, ADHD, night terrors and frequent ear infections. The signs and symptoms of a child suffering from ADHD are the same as that of a sleep-deprived child. I always recommend getting a child’s sleep evaluated before starting any such medications. Fifty percent of kids who received a diagnosis were able to get off medications just by getting better sleep. Not only do these kids and adults need enough hours of sleep but better quality of sleep as well. We see so many parents go from doctor to doctor seeking answers, looking for someone to help connect the dots.

As dentists, we are in the unique position of being able to do just that. In kids, we are able to utilize a plethora of options and create a custom plan for each child. We can utilize different stages of their growth and grow their airway into something that is conducive to their development.

The benefits of recognizing and addressing these issues in kids early are priceless.

Be it through appliances or other therapeutic options, we see these kids bloom… from better grades, to no more bedwetting (in older kids), to increased self-confidence. These are days that make us WANT to go to the office. This is when we can truly see how we can impact the lives of these kids and their families.

And it is this burning passion, this quest for answers that led me to develop my own design for a patented dental appliance for kids that’s designed to do just that… help them breathe and sleep better while growing and developing their airway so their brains can keep up with their bodies.

Knowing our “WHY” is the first step in figuring out “HOW” to achieve the goals that excite us.  To create a life that we enjoy living (versus merely surviving!). Only when we know our “WHY” do we find the courage needed to take the risks, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move life into an entirely new, more challenging and more rewarding chapter.

Knowing our purpose compels us to take on challenges that stretch us as well as inspire us. And as I always say, there is little we cannot do when we are powered by a clear purpose.

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