The aim of treatment is to open the airway and restore normal breathing during sleep and to alleviate the bothersome symptoms, such as daytime fatigue and snoring. Treatment may also help lower blood pressure and decrease risks for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.
In very mild cases of sleep apnea, conservative therapy may be all that is needed. These treatments include the following:
- Weight Loss
- Substance Cessation
- Positional Therapy
- Non-surgical means of addressing environmental allergies and sinus conditions
- Oral Appliance Therapy: Patients wear a custom-molded retainer over their top and bottom teeth while sleeping. The lower retainer is advanced forward which prevents the base of the tongue from collapsing the airway. The device also creates tone in the muscles of the airway to prevent tissues from collapsing during sleep. A dentist who has achieved their diplomat from the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) should jointly determine if this treatment is best for you.
- Positive Airway Pressure (PAP): Patients wear a mask over their nose and/or mouth. An air blower forces air through the nose and/or mouth. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent the upper airway tissues from collapsing during sleep. The pressure can be constant and continuous, or adjustable, depending on the type of machine your physician orders. PAP prevents airway closure while it is being used, but apnea episodes return when PAP is stopped or it is used improperly.
- Combination Therapy: Patients wear both the oral appliance and a PAP mask simultaneously. The oral appliance can reduce PAP pressure, prevent the patient’s mouth from dropping open and improve overall effectiveness of treatment.
- TAP-PAP: Patients wear the Thorton Adjustable Positioner (TAP) oral appliance which interfaces directly with nasal pillows, eliminating the need for straps and headgear altogether. This form of treatment eliminates leakage issues resulting from mask shifting. As in combination therapy, the oral appliance can reduce PAP pressure, prevent the patient’s mouth from dropping open and improve overall effectiveness of treatment.
Surgical procedures may help people with sleep apnea. Surgery is reserved for people who have excessive or malformed tissue that is obstructing airflow through the nose or throat. These procedures are typically performed after sleep apnea has failed to respond to conservative measures and a trial of oral appliance or CPAP. Types of surgery include:
- Turbinoplasty or polyp removal
- Tongue advancement or reduction
- Upper and Lower Jaw Advancement