A diagnosis of sleep apnea may be a little scary, but the good news is that it’s a treatable condition. If you have a mild to moderate case, lifestyle modifications may resolve your problem. If your sleep apnea is more severe, then other treatments should be considered.
- Lose weight: Being overweight produces extra tissue in the back of the throat, which can block your airway while you sleep. Even a small amount of weight loss can help open up your airway.
- Stop smoking: Smoking increases fluid retention and inflammation in the throat and airway.
- Avoid alcohol, sedatives and sleeping pills: Especially before bedtime, these substances can cause muscles, including throat muscles, to relax.
- Exercise your throat and tongue: Exercises can strengthen the muscles in the airway.
- Sleep on your side: Sleeping on your back works with gravity to make your soft tissues and tongue drop and obstruct your airway.
- Keep your head up: Raise the head of your bed by four to six inches, or use a foam wedge to elevate your body from the waist up.
- Continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) machine: If lifestyle changes don’t help, CPAP is the usual treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. The CPAP device involves a facial mask attached to a machine that provides a constant stream of air to your breathing passages. The disadvantage is that some people find this uncomfortable.
- CPAP minus the mask: An alternative, more expensive form of CPAP, called Provent, involves a device that fits over the nostrils and is smaller and less intrusive than the traditional CPAP machine.
- Other breathing devices: These include bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV). BPAP automatically provides more air when you inhale and less when you exhale. Some BPAPs are programmed to automatically deliver a breath if one hasn’t been detected for a certain number of seconds. The ASV device stores information about the patient’s normal breathing pattern and automatically uses airflow pressure to prevent pauses in breathing.
Surgery is an option for the most severe cases when nothing else has worked. Surgery may involve the removal of tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose. Some cases may require restructuring of the jaw.
A dentist can make an acrylic device to fit inside your mouth, similar to an athletic mouth guard. Another type fits around your head and chin to adjust the position of the lower jaw. Two common ones are mandibular advancement device (MAD) and tongue retaining device (TRD). These devices open the airway by bringing the lower jaw or tongue forward during sleep.
We are a dental practice with a specialty in sleep apnea, so please contact us at our south Denver dental office for more information.