Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked or narrowed. This reduces the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and vital organs and can lead to a variety of health problems. Typically, moderate to severe sleep apnea is treated by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine while sleeping, but some people find the machine to be a nuisance. There are other options for treating sleep apnea that can be administered by your dentist.
Oral Appliance Therapy
This option utilizes a simple plastic device, similar to a retainer, to keep airways open during sleep. There are various types of devices available, but they fall into one of two categories based on whether they hold the tongue in place or reposition the jaw. Your dentist will help you determine what type of oral appliance you need, custom fit the device to your mouth, and make adjustments as required. Oral appliances are small, comfortable, and convenient, presenting a great option for mild to moderate sleep apnea.
Upper Airway Surgery
Surgery should only be considered when all other treatments fail. Your dentist will have to identify the specific causes contributing to your sleep apnea; depending on the site and level of obstruction, the procedure varies in complexity. The most effective procedure, maxillomandibular advancement, pulls forward the upper and lower jaws; this treatment boasts an almost perfect success rate. The most commonly performed but less effective procedure, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, trims the soft palate. Talk to your dentist to weigh the pros and cons of each surgery to decide which is best for you.
If you do require oral surgery, sedation dentistry might be an option worth exploring. The Smile Design Center of Baltimore offers a host of amenities to make you feel comfortable and improve your oral and overall health. Call us at (443) 275-9821 to set up a free consultation to see how our cosmetic and general dentists can help you.