Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring is the sound of partially obstructed breathing during sleep. A large tongue or tonsils, a long soft palate, the uvula, and/or excess fat deposits in the throat all contribute to the narrowing airway and may cause snoring. While often harmless, snoring may also be the sign of a more serious medical condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea(OSA).

When OSA occurs, the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat and completely block the airway, which restricts the flow of oxygen. The combination of low oxygen levels and disrupted sleep are the major contributions to most of the ill effects the sleep apnea patient suffers. In addition to daytime sleepiness, studies show OSA patients are much more likely to have heart problems (heart attack, congestive heart failure, hypertension) and strokes, as well as higher incidence of work and driving related accidents.

Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Since OSA is a serious medical condition, it must be diagnosed by a physician. Diagnosis is based on the results of an overnight sleep study called Polysomnogram (PSG), along with a full patient evaluation and medical history.

Treatment Options

In addition to lifestyle changes including consistent sleep patterns, regular exercise and weight loss, there are three primary ways to treat snoring and OSA:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) clears the airway through pressurized air generated from a bedside machine. The air is delivered through a tube connected to a mask, covering the nose. The force of air causes the airway to widen so breathing becomes easier

Oral Appliance Therapy

Oral Appliance Therapy uses an appliance worn in the mouth to treat snoring and OSA. It involves the selection, fitting and use of a custom designed apparatus worn during sleep to maintain an opened, unobstructed airway in the throat. There are many options available and each is designed to work in different ways:

• Repositioning the lower jaw and tongue, soft palate and uvula

• Stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue

• Increasing the muscle tone of the tongue

Dentists with training in Oral Appliance Therapy are familiar with the various designs of appliances. They can determine which one is best suited for your specific needs. The dentist will work with your physician as part of the medical team in your diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care.

Surgical Treatment

Surgical Treatment can range from minimally invasive procedures to more complex surgeries. Professionals such as dentists who are oral and maxillofacial surgeons may consider a variety of methods to treat an upper airway obstruction. In addition , Ear Nose and Throat specialists may evaluate you for other types of surgery, such as the removal of excess tissues in the throat

Next Steps

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