With the help of an oral appliance created by their dentist, patients suffering from a life-threatening, but surprisingly common disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea discover restful nights and better health.
Dr. Betancur's practice encompasses general and cosmetic dentistry, oral surgery, dental implants, and sleep medicine. He considers sleep apnea to be significantly underdiagnosed, which is part of what drew him to obtain advanced training in that area.
"It's one of the most rewarding parts of my practice," he explains. "You actually extend patients' lives, as well as increase the quality of those lives, perhaps making it so that they can sleep in the same bedroom as their spouse again, and allowing them to feel like they have energy rather than being run down.
"Sleep apnea has so many co-morbidity factors, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and adult-onset diabetes," adds Dr. Betancur, "and it's one of the main causes of acid reflux. Treatment just makes life a whole lot easier for patients."
Sleep apnea is a condition in which sufferers repeatedly stop breathing while asleep, in some cases as many as 100 times per night, with episodes that can last for a minute or longer. "The body needs oxygen," emphasizes the doctor. "If it is deprived of oxygen, something bad is going to happen."
Dr. Betancur points to the incidence of cardiac arrest by way of example. "When do most people have a heart attack? Between eleven p.m. and four a.m. It will say heart attack on the death certificate, but what's actually happened is that an episode of sleep apnea has triggered cardiac arrest. The breathing stops, the pulse skyrockets, and the heart just pumps so hard, trying to get oxygen."
The number one reason for grinding of the teeth is sleep apnea, notes Dr. Betancur. "We used to think it was a result of stress, but now we know that it occurs because of the body's protective mechanism of moving the jaw forward to open the airway so the patient can breathe.
"When you treat the sleep apnea using oral appliances, the grinding comes to a halt. Patients don't wake up in the morning with headaches or sore jaws, plus it protects their teeth, which ends up saving them a great deal of money," he explains.
From a financial standpoint, sleep apnea treatment is considered economical by patients and insurance companies alike, adds Dr. Betancur. "Most patients who have acid reflux, for example, after being treated with a sleep apnea appliance, don't need their medication anymore. They should follow up closely with their physician.
"That's one possible reason that medical insurance, as well as Medicare, pays for the treatment. It's far cheaper for them to treat the sleep apnea than to have to handle the co-morbidities down the road."
Dr. Betancur hopes to help as many sleep apnea sufferers as he can. "We work with a number of physicians and pulmonologists here in town," he says. "For sleep apnea patients who cannot be treated with a CPAP machine, or who drop out of treatment, there are alternatives using oral appliances that enable us to extend their lives. In addition, the convenience of an oral appliance leads to a greater chance of compliance in their treatment."
In terms of those oral alternatives, Dr. Betancur adds, patients have many options. "There are ninety-two FDA-approved appliances for the treatment of sleep apnea," he explains.
To find out more about sleep apnea and treatment, visit www.sleepsnoredentist.com
Understanding and treating sleep apnea leads to better rest, higher energy levels, and improved heart health. If you are concerned about the possibility of sleep disordered breathing for yourself or a loved one, Dr. Betancur and his staff would like to help. The practice accepts Medicare and most major insurance plans. The offices are located at 3401 N. Federal Hwy., Suite 101, in Boca Raton, telephone (561) 750-6790 and 18203 Pines Blvd, Suite 305 in Pembroke Pines, telephone (954) 392-1851.
Alvaro Betancur, DDS, has practiced dentistry in Florida since 1990. After receiving his dental degree, Dr. Betancur completed a residency in craniofacial pain and pathofunction at the University of Florida and a fellowship at the University of Florida Pain Center and the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain. Dr. Betancur is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.