Sleep Apnea

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 stops airflow. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the throat obstruction 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, people with sleep apnea suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.

Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS), also known as snoring. In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.

Treating sleep apnea starts by recognizing the symptoms. Consult your primary physician. Your doctor will likely refer you to asleep apnea specialist.

In addition to gathering a detailed history, the specialists will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. With a skull x-rays, the physician can ascertain the level of obstruction. Specialists will sometimes conduct a naso-pharyngeal exam with a flexible fiber-optic camera. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, they may recommend a sleep study.

There are several treatment options available:

  • An initial treatment may include a nasal CPAP machine, which delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. This is the gold standard of care.
  • An uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plasty (UPPP) is a surgical option that is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat.
  • Another procedure is called a laser assisted uvulo-palato-plasty (LAUPP).
  • In other cases, specialists use a radio-frequency probe to tighten the soft palate. 
  • In more complex cases, the bones of the upper and lower jaw may be repositioned to increase the size of the airway (orthognathic surgery). This procedure is done in the hospital under general anesthesia. 

… and there is a dental option:

  • Dr. Mike and Dr. Janet offer a comfortable, effective, custom treatment for sleep apnea called Oral Appliance Therapy. Your jaw is moved only as far forward as required to treat your sleep apnea condition.
  • This treatment helps patients without surgery, masks, tubes, and noisy machines.

What will we do?

  1. We will thoroughly examine your teeth and mouth and may use digital x-rays to confirm you oral health status and eligibility for the procedure.
  2. We will ask you to coordinate with your primary care physician for a sleep study.  We will review the sleep study and determine if we can assist you with Oral Appliance Therapy or if you have to be referred to a specialist.  If we are able to assist you the next steps would be:
    • Dental impressions are required to create the appliance.  
    • These impressions are sent to the lab where the custom appliance is fabricated.
    • We will fit the custom appliance and provide care instructions.  

Sleep apnea is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment.