Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat.  This blocks the upper airway causing airflow to stop.  When the oxygen level drops low enough the brain moves out of deep sleep and the individual partially awakens.  The airway then contracts and opens causing the obstruction in the throat to clear.  The flow of air starts again usually with a loud gasp and then you move back into a deep sleep.  This process is commonly known as "snoring."

Signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • Heavy snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Awakening headache
  • TMJ soreness on awakening
  • Fatigue
  • Restless/fragmented sleep; gasping for air
  • Anxiety with breathlessness
  • Dozing when reading or sitting

Diagnosing Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Determining the location and cause of the obstruction, narrowing, or collapsing:

Acoustic Reflection Technology (ART), a painless and non-invasive technology, uses sound waves to draw a real-time picture of their nasal passages and oral airway.  ART employs two tools to map the nasal passages and oral airway, respectively: the Rhinometer (maps nasal passages) and Pharyngometer (maps oral airway).

Oral Appliance - preferred treatment option by many patients, especially if they are CPAP intolerant, a device that blows air up your nose

For many patients, snoring does not involve a serious medical disorder and can easily be treated successfully with an oral appliance.  Oral appliances often look similar to orthodontic retainers and TMJ appliances.  They are usually made from clear acrylics, and may have adjustment features.  These appliances are designed to dilate or open the airway by altering the position of the lower jaw.

Benefits of an oral appliance include:

  • Excellent patient acceptance and compliance
  • Non-invasive, conservative method
  • Repositioning of the soft palate and stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue
  • Moderate cost compared to other treatments
  • Increased muscle tone, pharyngeal and genioglossus muscle activity

Surgical Options

In general, surgery is indicated when the conservative therapies such as oral appliances are non-applicable, unsuccessful, or intolerable.  Surgery may be an effective treatment but only if performed competently and on correctly identified anatomic sites that contribute to upper airway obstruction, which varies between different patients.  A detailed examination of the entire upper airway is necessary before deciding which surgical procedures may be most effective.   There are many surgical procedures available with a main goal of removing excess tissues in the throat, tonsils, adenoids (especially in children), uvulva or even parts of the soft palate and the throat.