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With over 30 million men affected by E.D., we ask Dr. Ryne Johnson, often regarded as Boston’s Best Prosthodontist for some straight talk on this issue.

ED. affects an estimated 30 million American men; 15% of men age 70 and older report complete impotence. Women have sexual issues as well; in one study, 43% of women reported sexual dysfunction that impaired their quality of life. And a study in last month’s Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women with sleep apnea were more likely to have significant sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction can be embarrassing and demoralizing to many people. Therefore, physicians often see a hesitation in bringing this topic up.

There is a growing body of research that shows a strong correlation between sleep apnea and erictile dysfunction in men. There is even evidence that sleep apnea is linked to a higher prevalence of sexual dysfunction in women. One study found that men with RLS (restless legs syndrome) were 78% more likely to have E.D. The common mechanism here might be that both disorders involve a malfunction of the neurotransmitter, dropamine.

Experimental research that used sleep deprivation protocol to study the effects of sleep on the hormones and metabolism. Healthy young men found a decrease in testosterone when there were several nights of short sleep times (five hours or less) for a week or less. If sleep deprivation is chronic, as it often is in real life, then it may be that milder levels of sleep deprivation have a cumulative eddect and could lead to adverse hormonal consequences such as decreased testosterone.

Testosterone is produced during the night; the levels climb steadly throughout the night and peak in the morning. There are studies showing not only that a decrease in the total amount of sleep can lower a man’s testosterone. We know the REM sleep is often decreased or absent in patients with sleep apnea. Therefore, it seems that both the quantity and quality of sleep are important for testosterone production.

However, with sleep apnea, there is another reason that there could be erectile dysfunction: the low oxygen levels that are ofern associated with apnea, especially when it is severe. In some studies, the severity of the sleep apnea was the greatest predictor or ED while in others it was how low the oxygen went. We have known for years that chronically low oxygen levels at night adversely affects the vasculature of the heart, lungs, brain and now we can add the penis.

So, how can your dentist help? According to Dr. Ryne Johnson, prosthodontist at Newton Wellesley Dental Partners, “For many years, we’ve been fabricating appliances to help patients who have snoring or sleep apnea issues. It’s a simple, two-visit procedure where hard acrylic, mouth guards are made that reposition the jaw in a forward and open position. Many people prefer these appliances to their CPAP machines. We’ve seen a lot of success. Even women with a history of sleep apnea, report being less tired, less irritable and more interested in their partners after wearing the applicance. The good news is that often with treatment of the sleep disorder, the sexual dysfunction improves dramatically, thereby enhancing energy, mood and overall quality of life.”

For more information, visit www.NewtonWellelseyDentalPartners.org and remember to “See a specialist…the difference will make you smile.” Dr. Johnson can be reached via email at Ryne@NewtonWellesleyDentalParters.org


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