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.
In addition to a detailed history, the doctors will assess the anatomic relationships in the maxillofacial region. To confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, as well as the severity of the sleep apnea, a sleep study will be needed to monitor an individual overnight.
The sleep study can be completed at home and there is no need to go to a sleep study center.
Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
There are several treatment options available. An initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. The second best option is a custom-made dental oral sleep appliance. The last option should be, the uvula-palate-pharyngoplasty (UPPP) surgical option, which is performed in the back of the soft palate and throat. A similar procedure is sometimes done with the assistance of a laser and is called a laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUPP).
A certified sleep apnea dentist will fabricate a custom oral sleep appliance that will treat sleep apnea and snoring. The first visit includes taking impressions and measurements using a special gauge, the second visit will be to deliver the dental oral sleep appliance.
Almost all patients who are treated with a dental oral sleep appliance are patients who could not tolerate a CPAP machine or decided not to use one.
OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.