Laser Protocol Helps Sleep Apnea Patient

Bradenton dentist offers newer treatments for OSA, snoring.

In 1967, Ralph Bellrose graduated with a degree in engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. Soon after, he was hired by a major chemical company in technical sales. During his 32-year career, Ralph served faithfully and was ultimately named director of sales and customer service.

Ralph spends a lot of his time reading and tutoring
elementary students in math

“The chemical companies hired people with technical backgrounds for sales jobs because their salespeople interfaced primarily with engineers and scientists,” Ralph explains. “So, I started in sales and worked my way through the organization until I got my final job as director.”

Ralph enjoyed his years in sales but was delighted by the promotion, which he approached with determination
and commitment.

“My company had salespeople and sales managers all over the United States, as well as in Canada and Mexico,” he recounts. “Our customer service operations were in Texas. There were about 200 people working there. Managing that sales force and customer service operation was my responsibility, which I took seriously.

“I’m originally from New Jersey, and like most corporate gypsies I traveled around the country for a number of years. I finally took an assignment at my company’s headquarters in Danbury, Connecticut. When I retired in 1999, I joined my wife in Florida. We had already chosen Florida as our retirement location, and my wife moved down first in 1998.”

Initially, Ralph spent his retirement reading, gardening, traveling internationally and golfing. Unfortunately, arthritis took him off the golf course and COVID-19 curtailed his travel adventures. To keep busy these days, Ralph puts his math-intensive engineering education to work as a volunteer math tutor in local elementary schools.

For the most part, Ralph’s retirement life was comfortable. Then a few years ago, he encountered a complication. He developed a problem with snoring, which interrupted his sleep and disturbed his wife.

“I knew I was snoring because my wife told me I was, and occasionally I snored so loud I woke myself up,” Ralph shares. “On a scale of one to 10, the intensity of my snoring was a seven or eight. I didn’t want to go the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) route, so I consulted with Dr. Alford, who has cared for my dental needs for 20 years.”

J. Terry Alford, DMD, of Advanced Dental Cosmetic Center in Bradenton, practices general, cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Dr. Alford also offers innovative techniques to reduce snoring and restore normal sleep patterns.

Disturbed Sleep

Adequate sleep is necessary for staying healthy, Dr. Alford asserts. During sleep, the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which is a reparative system, kicks into gear and alerts the body’s cells to repair themselves and prepare for another day.

“Sleep is incredibly important,” the dentist stresses. “Without a sufficient amount of sleep, the cells can’t repair, which puts people at a higher risk for many health disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and stroke. As a rule of thumb, people should try to get a good seven hours of sleep each night.”

“The NightLase definitely helped. I’m breathing better while sleeping and when I’m awake.” – Ralph

For many people, that goal is elusive because they experience sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which typically causes intense snoring and disturbs sleeping patterns and breathing. Dentists can identify these issues and guide patients in the right direction toward treatment.

Dr. Alford determined that OSA was the cause of Ralph’s snoring issue.

“Since dentists work inside the mouth, we also look in the throat,” Dr. Alford observes. “With OSA, the tongue blocks the back of the throat, or there’s residual fat in the lateral portions of the throat that obstructs the airway. This restricts the amount of oxygen that can get into the lungs and eventually into the cells to fuel their reparative functions.

“There are certain things dentistry can do to improve this situation. For one, we can create a mandibular advancement device (MAD) or mandibular repositioning appliance. These devices are placed in the mouth and bring the jawbone and teeth forward, which opens up the back of the throat and allows for an easier transfer of air.”

A newer treatment for snoring and disturbed sleep is available at Advanced Dental Cosmetic Center. It is called NightLase®, which is performed using the LightWalker® laser by Fotona.

The LightWalker laser is preprogrammed for the NightLase procedure.

“NightLase is a simple, painless process that requires no anesthesia,” Dr. Alford educates. “It uses two wavelengths of laser energy that tighten the skin in the back of the throat and stimulate new collagen formation. The collagen gives the tissues in the back of the throat more tone, which opens up the airway so patients can breathe better.

“The anoxia-hypoxia index, or AHI, is an assessment of sleep-disordered breathing. The lower the number, the better the breathing. Patients with an AHI above nine are considered to have moderate to severe OSA. Say a patient’s AHI is 15. One NightLase procedure can reduce that by almost 50 percent. After three treatments, breathing is 85 percent better.”

The NightLase protocol at Advanced Dental Cosmetic Center calls for patients to usually receive three treatments, three to four weeks apart. Depending on the condition’s severity, maintenance treatments may be recommended, but results typically last for a year or longer.

The application of the laser for the NightLase procedure is very simple.

“NightLase is an excellent way to improve a patient’s disturbed sleeping and breathing patterns,” Dr. Alford concludes. “With these conditions ameliorated, patients sleep better, and better sleep decreases the risk for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and erectile dysfunction.”

“Very Successful”

To treat Ralph’s OSA, Dr. Alford initially recommended a MAD, which helped some but didn’t correct the problem sufficiently.

“I have some very loose skin in the back of my throat,” Ralph discloses.

“Dr. Alford explained that loose skin tends to vibrate when you’re asleep and can cause an obstruction and snoring. He suggested the NightLase treatment to improve my snoring even more and make my sleeping even better.”

Ralph received the NightLase treatment several years ago. The protocol was slightly different at that time, but Ralph achieved the same positive results.

“I underwent a total of four treatments. Dr. Alford wanted the appointments every three weeks for best results, and each session lasted about 30 minutes,” he details. “After that I went on a maintenance program and receive a treatment about twice a year. When I go in for my dental cleaning, Dr. Alford takes a look and decides if a treatment will be beneficial.

“The NightLase definitely helped. I’m breathing better while sleeping and when I’m awake. My snoring no longer wakes me up, and I get a good seven or eight hours of sleep at night. The treatment has been very successful, and my wife agrees. My snoring intensity is now a one or two. I recommend the procedure highly.”

Ralph says he has a great deal of trust in his dentist.

“I’m very, very pleased with Dr. Alford,” Ralph raves. “He’s very empathetic toward his patients, and he’s always looking for leading-edge technology to help them. I’ve lived all over the country and had experience with many dentists and doctors. Dr. Alford is without a doubt one of the best I’ve come across. I highly recommend him.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. NightLase photos courtesy of Advanced Dental Cosmetic Center, P.A. mkb
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