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Tarun Agarwal, DDS

8304 Creedmoor Road
Raleigh, NC 27613
Telephone: (919) 870-7645

Dr. Agarwal: Long-Distance Healing

From his attractive, comfortable quarters in Raleigh—at Raleigh Dental Arts on Creedmoor Road—Dr. Tarun Agarwal is having a profound and beneficial effect on the practice of dentistry in this country and beyond.

He is especially leading dentists on the path of becoming experts in recognizing sleep apnea in their patients, and providing effective care for this serious, sometimes life-threatening condition.

That was exactly the path for Dr. Richard Sullivan, IV, who completed his dental studies several years ago and is now active in practice with his father (Dr. Richard Sullivan, III) in Nashville, Tennessee.

Notes the younger Dr. Sullivan, “I first became aware of Dr. Agarwal’s exceptional knowledge and abilities when I heard him speak at a convention of dentists, about effective ways to identify and treat sleep apnea in our patients. Before he completed his presentation, I made a commitment to myself that I would journey to Raleigh for his next two-day extensive presentation on this very topic, which is exactly what I did.

When the tongue collapses during sleep, it blocks the airway creating a serious health issue called sleep apnes.

A Personal Journey

“And it was a surprising and interesting experience on a very personal level. As Dr. Agarwal made his in-depth presentation about the process of identifying and treating sleep apnea, I suddenly sat bolt upright—and felt like he was talking about my Dad. I had always known that my Dad was a long-time relentless snorer—we actually had to get different hotel rooms when we traveled years ago, because my sister and I—and our mother— couldn’t sleep in the room with my father because of his snoring.

“As the years passed, and I began working with him, I would come in at lunch time and he would be sitting in his chair, taking a nap. He was always very tired, and he had a lot of wear on his teeth. He had put a lot of stress on them from grinding and clenching—which is a big symptom of sleep apnea. As I worked away at the training session with Dr. Agarwal, I started remembering all of these details—and a big flashing light went off.

“My father is now 64, and I remember that my grandfather—also a dentist, and my Dad’s father—died at age 49, from a heart attack. We Sullivan males are all built the same way. I became aware—as I worked with Dr. Agarwal—that there was a strong possibility that my Dad was also dealing with sleep apnea. In fact, I felt certain that was true.

“So when I returned home, my Dad, a bit reluctantly, became my first sleep apnea patient. ‘To begin,’ I told him, ‘“we need to do this sleep test.’
“At this point, I’ve given this sleep test to over 100 patients, and to date, my father’s score on this test remains the highest of all. He was going as much as 80 seconds without breathing when sleeping. The results gave me the chills. It was a wonder that he hadn’t had a heart attack.

“And it’s important for me to emphasize—as Dr. Agarwal does often in his presentations—that as a dentist I can’t diagnose sleep apnea, but I can serve as a sleep apnea gatekeeper. When preliminary testing reveals the possibility of a breathing problem, we encourage the patient to have a comprehensive sleep study. After this study, when appropriate, we also make an individually designed sleep device, worn only while sleeping, to keep the airway open to permit healthy, undisturbed sleep.

“So—as my very first sleep apnea patient—we made my father a breathing appliance, and he almost immediately began to notice positive differences. He told me he started dreaming like a 17-year-old again. He used to wake up multiple times during the night to go to the bathroom, and now he is sleeping through the entire night. He wakes up at 5:30 a.m. now, and goes to the gym for a workout. All of his sleep apnea symptoms have dramatically changed. He’s healthier than he has been in many years.

An individually designed sleep device, worn only while sleeping, keeps the airway open to permit healthy, undisturbed sleep

“Recently we re-tested him and he’s almost in the normal range in all indicators. His average pulse at night when we began testing was 82, and most recently we re-tested him with the appliance and his pulse was 61. It’s certainly true that his heart is experiencing a great deal less strain than in the past.

“Honestly, this is a very big deal for me. It’s much more likely that he’ll be around for my kids, because almost certainly we’ve added years to his life. I personally have taken the sleep apnea test twice, and I’m still within the normal range. Eventually, I’m sure, just from a genetic standpoint, and the way that I’m built—I’m short and stocky, just like my Dad—I’m headed down the sleep apnea road. But I know what to do about that.

“At this point, I’ve prepared the sleep apnea mouthpieces for about 35 patients, and the results have been unbelievable. My experience is that people don’t mind getting adjusted to using the appliance because of how much it is improving all parts of their lives.”

Our Bodies Need to Regenerate

“We understand better as time passes,” notes Dr. Agarwal, “that there are a whole host of conditions that are related to and exacerbated by sleep apnea. We know that through the stages of healthy, natural sleep our body experiences healthy regeneration. But with sleep apnea—whether you stop breathing or have labored breathing—there’s a signal, an alert to the brain to wake up! Often there is no memory of this event, but with disruption of the sleep cycle, patients are too often missing out on the regenerative power of the sleep stages.”

This lack of regenerative sleep manifests in many ways, including daytime tiredness, Dr. Agarwal explains. “If you sleep for nine or ten hours and still feel tired, it may well be that this sleep apnea event is robbing you of the oxygen you need to be healthy and alert.”

C-PAP (Continuous Positive Pressure) devices are the gold standard for treating this condition, he notes, “but a very large group of people with sleep apnea are C-PAP intolerant. And dentists can play a key role to help these patients—through the use of customized oral appliances that can allow us to position the jaw to create an optimal opening of the airway while sleeping. I’ve worn such a device for years. I wouldn’t dream of leaving home without it. And my wife (who is a physician) wouldn’t dream of not having me use this device when I am at home.

“And there is further very good news,” he says. “In many instances our office is adept at working with medical insurance—in fact, we have a dedicated clinical sleep coordinator, who works side by side with a dedicated medical billing team. Our goal is to help our patients maximize their medical benefits. As a consequence, often our patients get their custom sleep appliances with very little out-of-pocket expense. It will be our pleasure to guide you through this sleep appliance process, if in fact testing indicates such an appliance will be beneficial for you.”