Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when some portion of the upper airway becomes blocked while sleeping. The patient will usually wake up with a gasp as the blood oxygen level in the brain becomes low, to clear the blocked airway. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder characterized by breathing interruptions while sleeping and low blood oxygen levels.
Approximately one in five adults are affected by mild OSA, and one in fifteen has at least moderate OSA. OSA can also affect as much as three percent of children. Most medical insurance plans cover treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
- Snoring with pauses in breathing (apnea)
- Excessive daytime drowsiness
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Restless sleep
- Problem with mental function
- Poor judgment/can’t focus
- Memory loss
- Quick to anger
- High blood pressure
- Nighttime chest pain
- Problem with excess weight
- Large neck (>17″ around in men, >16″ around in women)
- Airway crowding
- Morning headaches
- Reduced libido
- Frequent trips to the bathroom at night
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
If you or a family member exhibit symptoms of sleep apnea, you should visit Brazos Oral & Facial Surgery. Dr. Warren will perform a thorough exam of you medical history and interview family members concerning your sleep habits.
In addition to a comprehensive physical exam, we may obtain a three-dimensional CBCT scan to evaluate your airway. If Dr. Warren determines that further investigation of your condition is necessary, he will also arrange for a sleep study to be performed. This sleep study will help to confirm a diagnosis of OSA, as well as evaluate the severity of the disease process.
This sleep study, also known as polysomnography, will be performed in a sleep lab where you will be monitored to determine disturbances in your sleep and the oxygen levels in your blood. Sometimes a breathing machine trial (CPAP) may be incorporated to evaluate its effects on your OSA.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea
In moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, your treatment may involve wearing a device while you sleep, called a CPAP machine. The CPAP mask provides pressurized air that limits airway obstruction for the sleeper.
It is important to understand that while the CPAP may prove effective in treating sleep apnea, it is not a cure. If you stop using your CPAP device, your symptoms will return, as will your risk of other diseases. CPAP has proven to be very effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but patients often find it hard to tolerate long term. Studies show that patients who continue to use the CPAP regularly after a period of five years can be as low as 20%.
Nonsurgical Treatment of Sleep Apnea
Dental Appliances, Oral Devices, and Lower Jaw Adjustment Devices
Dental appliances are typically useful for treating mild to moderate sleep apnea. Most devices are designed like mouth guards to fit inside your mouth while others adjust the position of your lower jaw and open your airway by fitting around your head and chin.
Once again, it is important to remember that while dental and oral appliances may treat your OSA, they do not provide a cure. Symptoms and risks of others diseases return if you stop using your device.
Surgical Treatment of Sleep Apnea
At Brazos Oral & Facial Surgery, Dr. Warren will work closely with you to tailor a surgical procedure or procedures that will best address your individual needs. There are many methods to treat OSA. These procedures address different areas of the upper airway. We often work closely and in conjunction with otolaryngologists and sleep specialists to obtain the best possible result for you.
Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA)
MMA involves repositioning the upper jaw, lower jaw, and chin forward, opening the airway posteriorly. This forward positioning helps to move the tongue forward while increasing the size of the posterior airway. This procedure is often performed in conjunction with correcting any nasal airway problems, such as septal deviation or enlarged nasal turbinates. In contrast to the other temporary measures to assist you with your sleep apnea, surgical repositioning offers you the best chance of a permanent cure to your OSA. Studies have shown success rates with this surgery are better than 90%.
Dr. Warren will work closely with you to determine whether or not surgical procedures will help with your OSA. Our team of insurance specialists will work closely with you to understand your benefits (if they apply) and work with you through the approval process to help make the process easy for you.
Snoring can affect up to 50% of Americans at any given time. Snoring may not have some of the health consequences that are associated with OSA but can lead to sleep disturbances, marital discord, and social inconveniences, often forcing family members to sleep in another room.
Dr. Warren can provide the Pillar® Procedure for treatment of your snoring. The Pillar Procedure consists of placing three implants into the soft palate. The procedure can be performed under local anesthesia and takes approximately 10 minutes.
The Pillar Procedure is associated with very little post-operative discomfort. Most people describe a slightly sore throat or soreness similar to a pizza burn in the roof of their mouth. In general, patients do not even require pain medication after the procedure. Contact us today to see if the Pillar Procedure is right for you.