People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels. When obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, sometimes with a loud gasp.
Repeated cycles of decreased oxygenation lead to very serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally, these individuals suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, depression, and loss of concentration.
Some patients have obstructions that are less severe called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS). In either case, the individuals suffer many of the same symptoms.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
The first step in treatment for sleep apnea resides in recognition of the symptoms and seeking appropriate consultation.
Dental Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea
There are several treatment options available. An initial treatment may consist of using a nasal CPAP machine that delivers pressurized oxygen through a nasal mask to limit obstruction at night. However, many patients cannot tolerate the CPAP and therefore do not wear it. Another option is an intraoral apnea appliance which advances the lower jaw and opens up the airway. This device offers more comfort and therefore can be tolerated, accepted, and used by patients more readily.
OSA is a very serious condition that needs careful attention and treatment. Most major medical plans offer coverage for diagnosis and treatment.