While sleep apnea is a dangerous condition, oral and maxillofacial surgeons can help relief
Most patients consider surgery as a last resort. But for those suffering from severe sleep apnea, the alternative can be much worse. The word “apnea” means “temporary cessation of breathing.” Sleep apnea commonly occurs due to some kind of blockage in the air passageway while the individual is sleeping. This blockage is usually accompanied with a loud snore. Unfortunately, the consequences are much worse than sheer noise.
While awake, the sleep apnea sufferer may breathe perfectly fine. But in the relaxed state of sleep, the face and neck muscles slack and sag down, causing the air to stop from flowing through the lungs. This causes breathing to cease, and the brain – subconsciously realizing that something is wrong – forces the person to wake up just enough to start breathe again. And this behavior repeats all night long. As a result, the sleep apnea sufferer is chronically sleep deprived – and may never even realize their exhaustion is due to sleep apnea.
More than three million people have sleep apnea in the U.S., according to the Mayo Clinic, with the overwhelming majority of people affected age 40 or older.
After receiving a diagnosis, the first steps for treatment are non-invasive. Typically changes in eating and drinking habits will help to remedy this condition because obesity and alcohol use are common causes of sleep apnea. If these lifestyle alterations don’t work, a doctor may prescribe the use of a breathing assistance device to be used at night.
But this still poses the question; what if these methods don’t work?
That’s when an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may come in to assist.
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, a person suffering from severe sleep apnea may require a surgical procedure. This type of procedure alters the air passageway and allows easy breathing during sleep, once and for all. The professional association describes four procedures to accomplish a successful form of treatment, you may be considered for a variety of surgical procedures, like Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Hyoid Suspension, Maxillomandibular Advancement (MMA), or Genioglossus Advancement (GGA).
These techniques should only be used after all others have been exhausted – but eventually, exhaustion itself becomes the biggest threat. If you think you have sleep apnea, definitely talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend a consultation with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to discuss your options.