Sleep Apnea

What Is Obstructive 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 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.

How is sleep apnea treated?

The first step in treatment for sleep apnea resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation. Your physician can help you diagnose the presence and extent of sleep apnea with a sleep study.  Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your physician can direct you  as to what therapy best fits your diagnosis.

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.

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Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

For those who have severe apnea, an initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. For those with mild to moderate apnea, your doctor may recommend a Continuous Open Airway Appliance(COAT Appliance). These appliances thrust your lower jaw and tongue forward, helping keep your airway open while you sleep.  As your dentist, we can manufacture these COAT oral appliances. In fact, we work with your medical insurance to help cover the cost of these appliance with minimal out of pocket costs to our patients.

OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.