People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp.
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.
Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
The first step in treatment for sleep apnea resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons offer consultation and treatment options.
In addition to a detailed history, the doctors will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. With cephalometic (skull x-ray) analysis, the doctors can ascertain the level of obstruction. Sometimes a naso-pharyngeal exam is done with a flexible fiber-optic camera. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study may be recommended to monitor an individual overnight.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
What are oral appliances for sleep apnea? Oral appliances refer to mandibular advancement (repositioning) devices because they are the most effective and widely used in clinical practice. The function of an oral appliance is to protrude and help stabilize the mandible (lower jaw) to maintain an open airway during sleep. The oral appliance is custom fabricated and cannot be purchased from a store or online. Although not recommended for severe sleep apnea, oral appliances can be used by those who are intolerant of C-PAP rather than no treatment. Dentists with the “Qualified Dentist” certification are the recommended providers to make these oral appliances. Anyone with severe OSA needs PAP therapy (C-PAP), however if you have mild to moderate sleep apnea you can use an oral appliance which is much more comfortable and has a higher rate of compliance.
OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.
If you think you or someone you know may have obstructive sleep apnea, please call our office and reserve a complimentary consultation with either Dr. William Lund or myself Dr. Cara Lund.