Sleep apnea is a dangerous, even life-threatening condition, that left untreated can lead to a heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and decreased libido. If you or a significant other has a severe snoring problem, it may be a sign of this condition. An estimated 18 to 20 million adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea in the U.S., according to the National Sleep Foundation.
What to expect
Treatment depends on the cause, which can include nasal obstruction, receding lower jaw, long palate, etc. The underlying cause for sleep apnea must be treated to effectively eliminate the condition.
If nasal obstruction is the cause, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon may remove the obstruction. If the upper airway can be blocked by excess tissue, the position of your jaw may require realignment.
Possible treatment options
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, there are several options for obstructive sleep apnea:
A dental appliance that protrudes the lower jaw while sleeping can bring the tongue forward and prevent it from occluding the airway when asleep.
A surgical solution may be required if the dental appliance is not viable. The most effective is maxillomandibular advancement whereby the jaws are repositioned in a forward position. This brings forward the palate and the tongue, opening the airway and relieving the obstruction that occurs when asleep.