Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a dangerous condition, and while oral surgery isn’t the initial treatment approach, it can be a highly effective solution.
What is sleep apnea? How do you know if you have the disorder? For answers to those questions and information on when surgical intervention may be necessary, take a look at the following informational guide.
Warning Signs of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by repeated pauses in breathing while sleeping. Most people who have OSA snore — and chronic, loud snoring is the most common symptom of the disorder.
That said, not everyone who suffers from OSA is a snorer. Other warning signs that may be red flags for the condition include:
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Making frequent bathroom trips at night
- Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
- Having headaches in the morning
- Being excessively sleepy during the day
- Feeling irritable, short-tempered or moody
- Experiencing memory loss or a lack of sexual desire
The warning signs listed above don’t always point toward a diagnosis of OSA, but they do indicate the need for a professional evaluation from an experienced oral surgeon.
Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea
If you suspect you might have obstructive sleep apnea but ignore the issue, you’re putting yourself at risk for dangerous health problems in the future.
Left untreated, OSA can lead to a host of serious consequences, including:
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Type 2 diabetes
Furthermore, your daytime sleepiness could increase the chance of workplace accidents — and you might even fall asleep behind the wheel. An experienced oral surgeon can provide the treatment you need, but in many cases, patients with OSA never need oral surgery.
Is Oral Surgery the Right Solution?
While oral surgery to enlarge the airway can be quite effective, that isn’t the first line of treatment for OSA. Other strategies can work to resolve the dangers of the sleep disorder, and oral surgeons recommend taking a conservative approach to treatment.
If you’re diagnosed with OSA, your oral surgeon may advise you to:
- Make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, not having a nightcap before bedtime and sleeping on your side rather than on your back or stomach.
- Use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine every night to prevent pauses in breathing when you’re asleep.
- Wear an oral or dental appliance to reposition your lower jaw and tongue so that the airway remains open.
These conservative measures are often effective — but not always. For some OSA patients, oral surgery for sleep apnea is the best approach. And unlike other treatments for the sleep disorder, oral surgery offers a permanent solution because procedures address the underlying cause of the condition.
Do you think you might have OSA? If you live in the greater east central Indiana area, contact Richmond Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Our oral surgeons have expertise in diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea, and we can formulate an effective treatment plan and discuss the ins and outs of oral surgery as a solution.