Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that can impact your physical, emotional and mental health. Our Okotoks dentists explain the disorder, and provide insight on when dental surgery may be necessary.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious breathing disorder that is characterized by brief but often frequent interruptions during sleep.
If your airway becomes partially blocked, the palatal tissues vibrate, producing the sound we all know and recognize as snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway is completely blocked for periods of time.
As you might imagine, this condition has significantly negative effects on the physical, mental and emotional health of patients. There are many treatment options, including oral appliances and CPAP machines. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended. We’ll explain why in a bit.
How can sleep apnea impact my health?
Tired, but can't sleep? Sleep apnea can lead to a range of serious mental and physical health conditions that can cause several symptoms, from interrupted sleep in the short term to leaving you at risk for cardiovascular disease, depression and eventually, premature death.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can put you at risk for numerous health conditions, including:
- Lack of energy
- Awakening with headache or dry mouth
- Extremely loud snoring
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attack
- Problems with memory, or memory loss
As many know, snoring can also cause sleep problems for a spouse. However, there is hope in finding the right treatment method that considers the patients needs and effectively resolves this medical condition.
How is sleep apnea treated?
There are many successful treatments for sleep apnea. Depending on your needs, your dentist may recommend:
We can offer or recommend custom-fitted oral appliances to shift your tongue and lower jaw muscles to ensure the airway stays open. This helps airflow and prevents you from waking during the night.
Known as Continuous Positive Air Pressure Machines, these electronic devices use an internal fan to draw air inside. The air is then humidified and pressurized before being sent to the user through a connective base and face mask, which they breathe through.
At Foothills Orthodontics, we take a non-invasive approach to dental care, reserving surgery for rare cases that can’t be successfully treated with other methods such as oral appliances or lifestyle changes.
Do I need sleep apnea surgery?
If no other treatment options have worked, one or more surgeries may be recommended. Surgical options include:
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) to remove and reposition excess tissue in the throat and widen the airway.
- Radiofrequency Volumetric Tissue Reduction (RFVTR) to shrink and tighten tissues in and around the throat.
- Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction to straighten a bent or deviated nasal septum.
- Hyoid Suspension to pull the hyoid bone (located in the neck) forward and secure it in place, enlarging the space for breathing in your lower throat.
- Maxillomandibular osteotomy (MMO) and advancement (MMA) for people with severe sleep apnea. The bones of the jaws are cut and will heal over months.
These are a few surgical procedures that may effectively treat sleep apnea. Your dentist may recommend a less common one depending on your case and requirements.