Although thorough sleep apnea diagnosis generally involves an overnight stay at the sleep lab, Dr. Wilcox is always working on new techniques that will improve the effectiveness and convenience of this process.  In one technique, x-rays can be used to look at the position of the tongue and hyoid bone in suspected sleep apnea patients.  Although the test is not currently very effective (allowing for only a 70% diagnosis rate), the hope is that future refinements may make it a substitute for the complete sleep study. The hyoid bone is located in the neck, the only human bone not attached to any other bone.  It is only attached to the muscles of the neck and the tongue muscle.  Therefore, when the muscles of the throat relax, the hyoid bone can shift and become one of the main constrictors of the airway passage. By analyzing the position of the hyoid bone, researchers hope to use x-rays as a pre-screening tool to look for sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea is significantly underdiagnosed, and since the x-rays that might be used are routinely given to teens in preparation for orthodontic treatment with braces, the assessment can be used to direct people to sleep apnea diagnosis at a young age, hopefully allowing them to avoid the dangerous health consequences of untreated sleep apnea. If you suspect you may suffer from sleep apnea, please contact Desert Smiles today to schedule your initial consultation. Dr. Donald Wilcox serves patients in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Glendale, Arizona.

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