Oral and maxillofacial surgeons can help treat this dangerous condition.
For those who suffer from severe sleep apnea, surgery is considered a last resort. But in some cases, there is a much worse alternative. The word “apnea” means “temporary cessation of breathing.” Sleep apnea sufferers stop breathing.
Sleep apnea usually occurs due to a blockage in the air passageway, and this happens while an individual is sleeping. And with this blockage, the person typically has a loud snore caused by the block. But the consequences of the blockage are much worse than a noisy snore.
While awake, the sleep apnea sufferer most likely breathes just fine, and there is no obvious cause for alarm. But in a relaxed sleep, the face and neck muscles will go slack, sag down, and stop the air from properly flowing through the throat to the lungs. This in turn causes breathing to cease. The brain subconsciously realizes that something is wrong and in turn, forces the person to wake up just enough to begin breathing again. The sleep apnea pattern continually repeats all night long, and since your brain keeps waking to breathe, there is no way the individual can get a full, restful sleep – and they may never even realize it.
In the United States alone, more than three million people have sleep apnea. According to the Mayo Clinic, the overwhelming majority of sleep apnea sufferers are about 40 years old (or older).
Once the patient is diagnosed, the first step of treatment is always non-invasive. Since obesity and alcohol use are common causes of sleep apnea, naturally, if you are able to change eating and drinking habits, that is preferred to more drastic treatment methods. If that doesn’t work, a doctor may prescribe a breathing assistance device to use at night.
After those methods are exhausted, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may come into the picture to offer surgical treatments.
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, a person suffering from a severe case of sleep apnea may require a surgical procedure to alter the air passageway. A surgical procedure will allow easy breathing during sleep, once and for all. There are four main procedures to accomplish a surgical solution for sleep apnea. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (or UPPP), Hyoid Suspension, Genioglossus Advancement (or GGA), and Maxillomandibular Advancement (or MMA).
These surgical techniques should be an option only after all others have been attempted – but eventually, exhaustion becomes a threat to the patient’s health and well-being. Talk to your doctor if you think you have sleep apnea. You may be able to find a simple solution to your condition, or receive a recommendation for a consultation with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon to discuss your options.