If you've been waking up feeling like you never get a really good night's sleep no matter how early you went to bed, or if your spouse or partner complains that you snore loudly punctuated by moments where you appear to stop breathing, then you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be a dangerous condition, but it can be treated with help from your doctor, your dentist, and possibly an oral surgeon. Take a look at what you need to know.

Dangers of Sleep Apnea

It doesn't just sound like you stop breathing in your sleep at night – sleep apnea is a condition that actually does cause you to stop breathing for several seconds multiple times while you sleep. As you can imagine, this doesn't make for a very restful night's sleep. The pauses in breathing are often accompanied by loud snoring, which means that anyone you share a bedroom with may be losing sleep too. But a little tiredness is only the tip of the iceberg.

Sleep apnea is associated with several serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. And that grogginess can end up being more than just a simple inconvenience as well – when you aren't rested, you aren't as alert, and you run a greater risk of getting into a car accident or hurting yourself some other way because of that decreased alertness.

Sleep Apnea Treatments 

When you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are several different things that your doctor or dentist may recommend that you try. If you have mild sleep apnea, you might be able to treat it with lifestyle changes. Sometimes losing weight, giving up alcohol and cigarettes, and sleeping on your side can help. For mild to moderate cases, your dentist might prescribe a mouthpiece that you wear to bed. This helps keep your airway open while you sleep.

In moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea, a breathing machine is a very common treatment. This machine, called a CPAP machine, blows air into your throat while you're sleeping.

Finally, surgery is used as a treatment for severe cases of sleep apnea, or when other methods of treatment have been tried and failed.

Surgical Options for Sleep Apnea 

If you're a candidate for sleep apnea surgery, an oral surgeon will be operating on your jaw, tongue, or soft palate. The most effective type of surgery for sleep apnea is called maxillomandibular advancement, or MMA. This procedure enlarges your airway by pulling both your upper and lower jaws forward. This is an inpatient surgery, and you may need to have you jaw wired shut for several weeks following the procedure.

Another type of sleep apnea surgery is called anterior inferior mandibular osteotomy with hyoid suspension, or AIMO. This involves an operation on your chin that pulls the tongue forward and causes the neck muscles to enlarge, which increases the airway. It can be done as an outpatient procedure and doesn't require your jaws to be wired shut. Or, if you have tonsils or adenoids that are enlarged and need to be removed, your oral surgeon may perform a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) – a minor surgery involving some trimming of the soft palate, which can be done in conjunction with tonsil or adenoid removal.

If your sleep apnea is severe, or if you have tried mouthpieces and breathing machines and found them to be ineffective or too disruptive to your sleep, then you may be a good candidate for oral surgery for sleep apnea. Make sure that you discuss all of your options with your doctor, dentist, and surgeon, so that you can choose the right treatment for you. 

For more information, contact local professionals like Altoona Center For Oral Surgery & Maxillofacial Surgery.