Sleep apnea does not often come up in conversations about oral surgery. But, this condition can have some catastrophic effects on the mouth, it’s tissues and surrounding musculature, and more concerning the entire body. Thankfully awareness of sleep apnea has risen in recent years, yet many people still are unaware of the signs and symptoms of this potentially harmful disease.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing while sleeping. This disorder can cause the sleeper to stop breathing for minutes at a time and violently wake with a snore or choke as their bodies gasp for air. This causes disturbed sleep and can lead to chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmias. There are two types of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by a disturbance in the brain. The area of the brain that controls breathing does not send the right signals to the body to breath while you sleep. This is an uncommon form of sleep apnea, and often affects those with certain medical histories or those who are taking certain prescriptions. Obstructive sleep apnea is much more common. It is characterized by pauses in breathing while sleeping due to collapse or obstruction of the airway. It is most common in overweight people, but it can happen to anyone.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Diagnosing sleep apnea is not always easy. As it is a problem that only affects people while they are sleeping a sleep study is necessary; however, that is not the only thing taken into account. When diagnosing sleep apnea a doctor will take into account medical history of you and your family, your current physical health, and the results of a sleep study. The first step in diagnosing sleep apnea starts with the thought that you may have it. If you have disturbed sleep, are often fatigued, and are woken by gasping or loud snoring in the night start keeping a sleep journal. Note how often you wake, why you wake, and how you feel. Bring this information to your doctor. During your physical examination your doctor will check to see if you have any large or abnormal tissues that may be obstructing your airways while you sleep. They will check to see how your jaw may slide back while you are lying down, as well as the position and size of your tongue and uvula. The next step is a sleep study. There are two types of sleep studies and your doctor will be able to prescribe the one which they believe will provide them with the best results. The first is a polysomnogram. A polysomnogram records brain activity, eye movements, heart rate, and blood pressure while you are sleeping. It takes place in a lab or a sleep center. This is able to give a doctor an accurate picture of what happens while you sleep. The other is a home-base portable monitor. This unit is taken home by you and records your blood oxygen, heart rate, chest movements, and the amount of air coming out of your nose while you sleep. This test is effective yet it may lead to a more involved PSG if the results are inconclusive.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Treating sleep apnea is a varied practice and one where your Melbourne, Florida oral surgeon may come into play. Dr. Sedaros’ unique experience with the oropharyngeal organs as well as the maxillofacial bones and tissues provide him with the knowledge he needs to successfully diagnose and begin treating this disorder. A CPAP machine is the most common treatment. This machine moves pressurized air through a face mask that ensure you are breathing while you sleep. CPAP machines are great because they are not invasive and can provide great relief without any adverse side effects. However, sometimes surgery is the best option. If the soft palate is what is causing the obstruction your oral surgeon can be tightened with a laser, radio-frequency, or surgically removed. These procedures can greatly reduce the obstruction and may cure the disorder. In the most intense cases of sleep apnea repositioning of the bones may be necessary. However any surgery that alters the orientation of the most use joint in the human body will take great consideration.

If you feel like you may be suffering from sleep apnea, start tracking your sleep and see your doctor. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your Melbourne, Florida oral surgeon may be able to help you treat your disorder and get you the sleep you need.