Bellingham Dentist

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Surgical and Non-Surgical Choices for Sleep Apnea Treatment

In the realm of sleep medicine, here are some of the treatment options for those with sleep apnea.

Surgical Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Tracheostomy is a cut in the lower throat to bypass the collapsing upper airway. It’s a permanent opening to the windpipe that can be opened and closed. It is the most effective surgical procedure for treatment of the obstructive type of sleep apnea. However, it is not without its downside. The procedure is disfiguring and affects the patient’s quality of life. The valve that can be opened or closed can make the patient susceptible to infection, apart from its needing regular cleaning. Tracheostomy is now reserved for patients with severe apnea or if other medical and surgical modalities fail.

Tonsillectomy and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty are surgical procedures available to address pharyngeal obstruction. The surgical removal of the tonsils, or the uvula and part of the posterior palate may be successful in the appropriate patient. However, freeing the airway of these structures involves a lot of cutting inside the mouth and throat. It can also be painful for the patient.

Non-surgical Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, device is now the most common treatment used for moderate to severe sleep apnea, The person’s airway is splint open during sleep by means of pressurized air. A plastic facial mask is worn that is connected by a flexible tube to a small bedside CPAP machine. The CPAP is a non-surgical approach that uses a breathing mask to stiffen walls of the throat to keep tissue from becoming floppy and blocking the airway. But then, the patient needs to strap on the mask every time he goes to sleep. It takes a lot of getting used to and many patients abandon their masks in only their first year of use. However, perseverance pays and the results can be positively dramatic.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is another type of intervention in the treatment of sleep apnea. While it is possible to be thin and have sleep apnea, obesity multiplies the probability. Excess body weight is thought to be an important cause of apnea. People who are overweight have more tissues in the back of their throat which can restrict the airways especially when sleeping. The lifestyle change involves shedding addictive substances like alcohol or sugar, not to mention high calorie diets. In weight loss studies of overweight individuals, those who lose weight show reduced apnea frequencies.

An important area of consideration for those with sleep apnea is their increased risk for complications arising in surgery. Surgeons are seeing more and more patients going through elective surgery as indicating in their screening questionnaire that they snore in their sleep. Sleep apnea can be a risk factor for poor outcomes, such as pulmonary complications.

Other issues are: changing the anaesthesia based on sleep apnea, medications that can cause the airway to collapse, multiple medications that can build up and cause interactions. Also, after surgery, people with apnea have to be monitored longer and there may be the need for intensive care services, which significantly increase health care costs.


Sleep Apnea Treatment Options at Tetrick Family Dentistry

Schedule an evaluation with the dentist to see if the sleep apnea appliance could be a therapeutic for you.