Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects nearly 1 billion adults in the world who are between the ages of 30 to 69. In the U.S. alone, around 25 million adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and it is becoming a growing health concern as more and more of these patients develop other life-threatening conditions like coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and depression.
Patients who suffer from sleep apnea are unable to get a good night’s rest. They experience disturbed sleep, which makes them feel exhausted throughout the day. They are unable to concentrate on work and are more vulnerable to serious illnesses because their body is unable to perform its repair and restore functions at night.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are three main types of sleep apnea; obstructive, central and complex. Most patients are affected by obstructive or the milder form of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is irregular breathing at night. Patients with sleep apnea make choking or gasping noises at night because their nasal cavity gets blocked. While sleeping, the muscles at the back of their throat relax.
As the muscles relax and expand, they block the nasal cavity and make it difficult for the patient to breathe. The patient’s breathing becomes irregular, and the oxygen saturation in the blood drops low. As a result, throughout the night, the body has to work extra hard to continue functioning normally.
But when the patient wakes up in the morning, they feel lethargic and drained. This can greatly affect their personal and professional lives.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
Patients who have obstructive sleep apnea are advised to wear oral appliances to treat their sleep disorder. An oral appliance, such as a mandibular advancement device (MAD), looks a lot like mouthguards that are worn by athletes during games to protect their teeth and tongue from injury. The mandibular advancement device has dental arches and metal hinges that temporarily bring forward the lower jaw and tongue to create more space at the back of the throat. So even when the muscles relax during sleep, the nasal cavity remains open, and the patient can breathe without difficulty or snoring.
MADs can either be bought over the counter or are custom-made by the patient’s dentist to provide the best fitting and results. Studies have shown that people who use MADs for more than 12 months were able to treat their sleep apnea and snoring.
Another oral appliance that is used to treat sleep apnea is called the tongue retaining device. This device looks like a splint and holds the tongue in place so that when the muscles relax, the palate at the back of the tongue does not block the nasal cavity, and the person continues to breathe normally. However, it is not as commonly used as MADs.
Oral Surgery for Sleep Apnea
Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea and the structure of your jawbones and oral cavity, your dentist or maxillofacial surgeon may recommend oral surgery for treating your sleep apnea. There are many kinds of surgeries that are performed to treat mild to severe sleep apnea.
During a minor surgery, your maxillofacial surgeon will remove extra tissues from the soft palate and uvula to widen the airways and improve respiration. But in serious cases, you will require a jawbone surgery known as maxillomandibular osteotomy to change the structure and alignment of your jawbones.
To open up the airways, your maxillofacial surgeon will bring your upper or lower jawbone forward to create more space at the back of your throat. It can take months for your operated jawbones to heal, and during this time, you will be restricted to a liquid or semi-solid diet as your jaws will be wired shut.
If you suffer from sleep apnea and your family complains about your loud snoring, then visit us at East Lyme Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Give us a call at (860) 934-7809 to schedule your appointment today.