Sound Sleepers
Dr. Marc Levin offers relief to those who snore or suffer from sleep apnea and, as a result, often delivers a good night’s rest to their bedmates
by Amanda Hamm Hengel

It’s safe to say that most of us have been exposed to someone who snores. Whether it was a family member, college roommate or best friend, with an estimated 55 million Americans suffering from what has often been described as a bone-rattling annoyance, a fair share of us have plodded through many a sleepless night.

While most people consider snoring more of a social issue than a health problem, the reality is, snoring can be more of a health risk than we realize. “Snoring is often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a severe health problem,” says Marc A. Levin, D.M.D., FAGD. “You can’t assume that someone just snores. Until you’re tested with a sleep test, you don’t know whether you just snore or if you have sleep apnea.”

Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s airway becomes obstructed by throat tissue. Often the person will stop breathing, and the restricted airway will deplete the amount of oxygen going to the brain and other parts of the body. Common health risks associated with sleep apnea include heart disease, high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, diabetes and depression, to name a few, according to Dr. Levin.

Along with the health risks associated with sleep apnea, those who suffer from the disorder often experience excessive tiredness during the day, because they’re not getting a good night’s sleep. “It’s a quality-of-life issue,” Dr. Levin says, noting that 18 million people in America suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of the disorder. “Even though you think you got your eight hours, because you’re snoring and you stop breathing, you’re not getting into that deep, restful sleep.”

In order to determine whether or not a person has sleep apnea, a sleep test is often ordered. Dr. Levin says that, previously, sleep tests needed to take place in sleep centers or hospitals where patients could be hooked up to electrodes and filmed while they slept. Today, the test can take place in the comfort of the patient’s home. “The newer way, which is becoming a lot more common, is home sleep testing,” he says. “Portable units allow people to sleep at home, in their own beds, where they often sleep better. The units give us the information we need to know whether they have sleep apnea or not.”

If it is determined that a person does have obstructive sleep apnea, doctors will often recommend that a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine be used to help keep the person’s airway from closing during sleep. The problem, Dr. Levin says, is that a high percentage of the people prescribed CPAP machines cannot use them. “They can’t tolerate it for any number of reasons, whether it’s too loud, or they’re forced to sleep on their back,” he says, adding “They may also have trouble simply falling asleep with it, because they find it too confining. It’s also difficult to travel with, and it requires electricity to run.”

Dr. Levin says if a patient comes to see him for a snoring or sleep apnea problem, he can order a sleep test from his office, and the test will be read by a board-certified sleep doctor. If the patient has severe obstructive sleep apnea, he says he will recommend CPAP be tried first, but a majority of the patients diagnosed with sleep apnea won’t be able to tolerate it. “I’m not going to try and talk anyone out of using CPAP,” he says. “But the reality is, millions of people have sleep apnea that either hasn't been diagnosed or is going untreated due to CPAP intolerance.”

In recent years, another option has been made available to apnea sufferers who have not had success with the CPAP machine: the oral appliance. Oral appliance therapy can equal CPAP in effectiveness and offer a higher patient compliance than CPAP. With this new option, patients are fitted by a dentist for the appliance, which is similar in appearance to a mouth guard. Worn only while a person sleeps, the appliance advances the lower jaw, which keeps the airway open. Dr. Levin, a leading dentist with his own practice serving patients in the Philadelphia region, has been working with eOs Sleep, a company specializing in sleep apnea treatments, to make this new option more available. “Patients like oral appliances because they are comfortable, easy to wear, quiet, portable and easy to care for,” he says.

Doug Sanchez is an obstructive sleep apnea patient who has benefited from the use of an oral appliance fitted by Dr. Levin. The 35-year-old New York resident says he came upon Dr. Levin by chance, and is thankful every day that this chance encounter occurred. “I had been to a couple of specialists in the area where I live, but had gotten no help at all. It had gotten to the point that my wife and I couldn’t sleep in the same room anymore,” he says. “I saw a listing for eOs Sleep in the New York Times by accident. It was sitting on a table at work, and I figured, it couldn’t hurt to call. So I went and paid them a visit, got the oral appliance, and it’s been great ever since.”

Sanchez, like most apnea sufferers, found the CPAP machine he had been prescribed too restricting to sleep comfortably. The oral appliance he was fitted with has changed his life tremendously, and says he can now sleep through the night and wake up refreshed, instead of exhausted. “It’s just a mouthpiece, but this thing has done wonders,” he says.

Dr. Levin is the dental director for eOs Sleep, a nationwide network of highly skilled and uniquely qualified ear, nose and throat doctors and dentists dedicated to the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea. He treats patients in his Philadelphia office, as well as in New York City. He finds the work to be rewarding, and he is happy to help those suffering from such a disruptive disorder.

“The nice thing about this is, well, not everyone is excited to go to the dentist, but people who come to me looking for a solution to their snoring and sleep apnea problems are often desperate,” he says. “When I can treat their problem, they are just so grateful.”

Dr. Marc A. Levin
1601 Walnut Street, Suite 1414
Philadelphia, PA 19102 | 800-eossleep

Photography by Jeff Anderson