North Coast Smiles offers consultations, testing for sleep apnea


With so many Americans experiencing symptoms from undiagnosed sleep apnea, North Coast Smiles offers a way to get help.

Dr. Michael LeFebvre
(Courtesy of Solifoto)

According to the American Medical Association, about 30 million Americans have sleep apnea, but only about 6 million are diagnosed.

“It’s kind of one of the silent killers in America,” said Dr. Michael LeFebvre, a general dentist at North Coast Smiles. “Sleep apnea affects up to 20% of Americans, and it’s usually not detected until it’s in the late stages, so a patient might experience snoring as the first sign, fatigue throughout the day.”

LeFebvre added that dentists are able to serve as first screeners for people who might have signs and symptoms of sleep apnea.

“If they’re not sleeping well and they seem to be waking up and tossing and turning, that’s usually an indication that their body is actually waking them up because they’re not breathing well,” LeFebvre said. “If they wake up gasping or choking, or if they’ve been told they’re a loud snorer or have periods of stopping breathing — sometimes a bed partner will notice they cease breathing and then all the sudden the breathing comes back and they’re gasping or choking.”

Fatigue can also be a strong indicator that a patient has sleep apnea. Factors such as age and weight can also play a role.

“If they’re really dragging throughout the day and they need caffeine to stay awake or if they’re falling asleep in traffic or while reading, things like that, just a general decrease in energy is a sign to get tested,” LeFebvre said.

North Coast smiles performs a visual exam mainly through a short-survey that can help provide an indication of what is going on. A high enough score will lead to the patient taking a test.

“We can provide a simple two-night test for them, which will give an indication to see if the blood-oxygenation level is dropping, and that’s what’s so dangerous to the heart, kidneys, brain and so forth,” LeFebvre said. “Patients are at a 50% increased risk of stroke and heart attack within 10 years if they have a dangerous level called an apnea-hypopnea index.”

He added, “The testing is just a simple device that we place on the forehead, and it measures the pulse rate and oxygenation level and so forth, and a board-certified sleep physician will interpret those results. It’s done in the privacy and comfort of their own home.”

North Coast Smiles can also provide treatment options.

“The gold standard is the CPAP, where they put a mask over their face and that gives positive airway pressure and solves the issue,” LeFebvre said. “But a lot of people are intolerant of wearing the mask, and so that’s where a medical-grade dental device actually positions the jaw forward, opens up the airway and usually can eliminate the sleep apnea in mild to moderate patients.”

North Coast Smiles is located at 285 N. El Camino Real, No. 102 in Encinitas. For more information, visit

— Business Spotlight features commercial enterprises that support this publication.