Our latest Chairside Chat is between Dr. Liao and JPM a 50 year old high-level business strategist for a top Fortune 100 company. This discussion relates to how a dysfunctional mouth can lead to forced or involuntary medical leave and can be a career liability.
JPM: “I am on medical leave now because of issues with my memory. I heard your lecture 2 months ago, and I have a feeling you can help me.”
Liao: “What are your problems? If you can have Fairy Godmother waive away your top 3 health complaints — medical or dental — what’d they be?”
JPM: “First, an inability to remember things, second: cholesterol in the high end of normal (200- 220 range), third: teeth grinding & frequent headaches.”
Liao: “Have you seen you medical doctor?”
JPM: “My company doctor referred me to a neurologist who diagnosed me with early onset Alzheimer’s. My salary now is a fraction of what I used to make, and I have 3 daughters going through college.”
Liao: “I see. So you need to get back to top form ASAP. How’s your sleep?”
JPM: “Not good. Work sometimes cuts into my sleep because I am always trying to solve problems around the clock. There is often pressure and deadlines. I fall asleep @ 11 PM and wake up @ 3 AM and it is hard to go back to sleep.”
Liao: “How long has that been going on?”
JPM: “At least 15 years. What does sleep have to do with Alzheimer’s?”
Liao: “Brain fog, memory lapses and fatigue are common among pre-dementia and sleep apnea. The brain runs on blood sugar and oxygen, and the mouth is involved in supplying both (more info). How do you feel when you start your work day?”
JPM: “I feel tired starting my work day, and sleepy during the day. I drink green & black tea to stay awake.”
Liao: “What did your doctor suggest to you about treatment for early Alzheimer’s?”
JPM: “The doctor told me medications do not work for Alzheimer’s. That’s when I thought of you and your lecture.”
Liao: “Have you had a sleep test yet?”
JPM: “No. Should I? What can you do for me?”
Liao: “Although you keep your teeth clean and eat a healthy diet, your jaws have been a life-long liability to your health. I suspect you suffer from undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The clues include you daytime sleepiness with high Epworth Sleepiness Score (find out your score by clicking here), inability to fall back to sleep, and severe wear and tear from your teeth grinding which is now considered as a reaction to airway obstruction by leading researchers.
In a nutshell, your tongue is a 6-foot tiger in a 4 foot cage formed by jaws and teeth that got shortened to 3-foot from teeth grinding. Making room for your tongue treats the cause of your memory issue by unblocking your airway. That can be done with oral appliances if your sleep apnea is not severe. A sleep test can tell.
You wake up at 3 PM because your tongue has been blocking your airway while you sleep. You cannot fall back to sleep because your body had just had a life-threatening event from oxygen deficit. Now your nervous system is on high alert, and it takes quite a while for that big stress response to calm down. That’s why you are tired when the sun comes up, and over time, fuzzy in your memory.”
JPM: “So what do I do now?”
Liao: “Here is a referral for a sleep test, and the sleep doctor will make the diagnosis on whether you have sleep apnea or not.”
JPM: “And then? When do I get my appliances?”
Liao: “Then you come back for Diagnostic Records. When your Records are complete, I can give you a treatment plan with estimated time and costs.”
JPM: “Yes, please do. Thank you for your explanations and I will follow your suggestions.”
Stay tuned for more from JPM on our blog and updates from our Newsletter.