Oral Surgeon Discusses Sleep Apnea and Health Risks

The laymen’s description for sleep apnea is a condition where the patient stops breathing during sleep for brief periods of time. There are multiple reasons this can occur, and there are many solutions; treatment is most often dictated by the severity of the problem. There are home remedies that may work, but if the condition persists an oral surgeon may be consulted to provide more permanent relief.

Adults who suffer from sleep apnea are more inclined to be overweight; use alcohol or sedatives before bed; or sleep on their backs. Another lifestyle habit that can contribute to sleep apnea is smoking. Many of these issues lead to health risks, but when you add night after night of interrupted or insufficient sleep, the odds increase for the occurrence of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Depression

With sleep apnea, the condition itself would lend to being a risk … not breathing sounds very serious. The patient can stop breathing up to 50 times or more in a one hour period. With obstructive sleep apnea, the likely cause is a blocked airway passage in the nose, mouth or throat.

Why does someone with this condition not struggle during the day as well? While awake, the tongue and throat muscles that can lead to sleep apnea are not relaxed. Laying down affects their position and can put pressure on the airway closing it.

For some, a specially designed mouth piece worn during the night might help. Or there are sleep systems that deliver air continuously through a mask that is worn that covers the nose and/or mouth. Known as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), this form of treatment is very effective in that the force of air works to keep passages open allowing for more even breathing.

For individuals who have lost weight and given up their evening cocktails; quit smoking; modified their sleeping position; and tried the air flow mask … if the problem persists, it may be time to consider other options.

Seeking a consultation with an oral surgeon may pinpoint areas that could help such as removing the soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, modifying an overbite, or removing enlarged tonsils.

A good night of sleep is critical to maintaining good health, so resolving sleep apnea should be a high priority.