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The Department of Transportation recognizes the danger of OSA – Do you?

Posted on January 10th, 2020

A recent issue of the transportation industry publication, Freightwaves, drew attention to the problem of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Long-distance truckers are eleven times more likely to suffer from OSA than the general population. This is especially troubling since falling asleep on the road can have deadly consequences. A trucker suffering from untreated OSA is 25% more likely to be involved in an accident than a fully-rested trucker.

Because of the risk to U.S. citizens, the Department of Transportation has made screening for OSA a mandatory part of all trucker physicals. Included in these physicals is a neck measurement as well as a BMI measurement. Researchers have found a link between sleep apnea and neck circumferences greater than 17 inches in men and 16 inches in women.  

Truckers who fail the neck circumference test or who have BMIs over 30 are referred for sleep studies. In severe cases, a trucker may receive a restricted license or be put out of service until the OSA is under control.

While those who don’t drive big rigs may not have to undergo mandatory OSA screenings, the DOT procedures highlight an essential fact: sleep apnea affects driving. Truckers receive extra screening because a single truck accident can damage many vehicles. Still, if you care about your safety and the safety of your passengers, you need to be aware of your OSA risks.

When was the last time you checked your neck circumference? Does your doctor check it during your physicals? Check your neck circumference. And if it puts you in an at-risk group, talk to your primary care physician or your dentist about a sleep apnea screening.

Dentists and other medical practitioners: do you include neck measurements as part of your screening for OSA risk? If not, consider adding this simple tool to your screenings. Measuring neck circumference is quick and easy. And it gives you a concrete, understandable piece of data that you can use to educate patients about their sleep apnea risks.

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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