Sleep apnea can cause serious symptoms and unwanted side effects, and in some cases can be life threatening, but it usually does not require surgery for effective treatment. Certain kinds of oral surgery, though, have been found to be helpful for some types of sleep apnea. Your oral surgeon can help diagnose your apnea and determine the best treatment.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when your breathing is interrupted or obstructed during sleep, causing you to stop breathing for a short period of time. This causes you to awaken very briefly. The breathing interruptions typically happen many times during the night. As a result, you do not get enough rest, and your body can be deprived of vital oxygen, leading to fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and other problems that can be chronic, uncomfortable, and sometimes difficult to diagnose.

Obstructive apnea occurs when your airway becomes obstructed, usually by tissues at the back of your throat or by tension in the muscles around the airway. Traditional treatments for apnea include oral appliances that keep the airway open and CPAP machines that provide a constant flow of oxygen into your airways. Sometimes, though, these treatments do not work. In these cases, an oral surgeon might be able to help.

Surgical Treatments for Sleep Apnea

If your breathing is being obstructed by tissues in the back of your throat or because your airway is constricted when you sleep, some types of surgery can help keep the airways open. One of these, called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, removes tissue from the area around your uvula and restructures the soft palate to be sure your airways remain open. This procedure is relatively new, but has had promising results.

Other surgical treatments include:

  • Shifting the jawbone to open the air passage
  • Using plastic implants to open your palate
  • Nasal or sinus surgery to remove obstructions in the nose or sinuses
  • Tonsil or adenoid removal
  • Creation of a new airway

Before choosing surgery, your oral surgeon will probably want to try less invasive treatments. To find out more about how your sleep apnea can be treated, please contact the office of Dr. Chris Tye for a consultation.