Sleep apnea happens when you literally stop breathing while you sleep. In general, it is a part of a spectrum of a disease where the upper airway has too much resistance. Athough sleep apnea is easy to diagnose, uncovering the cause can be tricky. Just as Leo Tolstoy wrote “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, we believe “Every perfect upper airway is the same; every imperfect upper airway is different in its own way."
Causes and Misconceptions
Sleep apnea is often traced to a nasal problem. Your nose may not be humidifying air well enough, it may have resistance to swelling from previous conditions, hyper allergic responses, polyps, or even acid reflux.
A lot of doctors view sleep apnea as a one diagnosis. If you have it, you need to lose weight. This couldn’t be further than the truth; many healthy young people with long term nasal problems acquire this condition as well.
The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a blockage of the breathing passage or a collapsed airway. With a blocked airway, it is difficult to breathe—keeping air from traveling freely.
When you’re awake, throat muscles help keep your airway stiff and open so air can flow into your lungs. When you sleep, these muscles relax, which narrows your throat. Normally, this narrowing of your throat doesn’t prevent air from flowing into and out of your lungs. However, if you have sleep apnea, your airway can become partially or fully blocked because of the following reasons:
Your throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal.
Your tongue and tonsils are large compared to the opening into your windpipe.
The shape of your head and neck may cause a smaller airway size in the mouth and throat area.
The aging process limits your brain signals’ ability to keep your throat muscles stiff during sleep.
As a result, not enough air flows into your lungs if your airway is partially or fully blocked during sleep. In the end, you or your loved one will experience loud snoring and a drop in your blood oxygen level.
Have you ever wondered if you are at risk or might have sleep apnea? Well, now you are in luck. While we are always searching to provide you with up-to-date information on our website, we want to also make sure you get the information you need to take charge of your health.
As you know, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the breathing pathways through the mouth, nose or throat are collapsed or blocked. These airways are susceptible to blockages or collapse as the muscle tone lining these pathways relax during sleep.
Overweight individuals are the most at risk for experiencing sleep apnea due to excess tissue, which may place pressure on the airway. More than half of those with sleep apnea are classified as overweight—an issue we need to tackle. Your risk for developing sleep apnea significantly increases with increased weight, age and those with diabetes, as well as smokers.
You may also be susceptible to sleep apnea if you have a constricted shape or small size of features in the nose, mouth or throat. Allergies and other medical conditions can also cause features along the airway to restrict the flow of oxygen. On the other hand, sleep apnea is often more common in men than women. It is also more common among African Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders than Caucasians. Sleep apnea can also occur during pregnancy and following menopause.
The VOAT Procedure: CPAP Alternative
The Sleep and Sinus Center of Georgia’s VOAT™ surgery is a new approach to radio frequency ablation of the tongue. However, it is a marked improvement on the procedures of the past. The VOAT™ procedure takes a different approach, where scarring is less visible, the incision is less painful, and patients have an 80% chance of improving. Many patients no longer require a CPAP machine at all. In fact, the in-office VOAT™ procedure is very quick, and requires minimal sedation, and some surgeries only lasting 30 seconds.
In conclusion, while radiofrequency ablation is a highly adaptable technology that has been used anywhere from treating varicose veins to sleep apnea. The VOAT procedure has improved upon the foundation laid by RFA and other procedures to become the best option for potentially curing sleep apnea.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral Appliance Therapy offers patients a non-surgical option for treating their sleep apnea. It functions as a tool to maintain an unobstructed, open airway to facilitate proper breathing during sleep. While there are over-the-counter versions of this tool, a custom-made oral appliance has proven to be more effective at treating sleep apnea.
To begin the process, our on-staff dentist, who is certified in Dental Sleep Medicine (DABDSM), will conduct an examination of your condition. He will also evaluate your specific needs to determine the most appropriate appliance for you. It will be custom-fitted to you and will adapt to your specific needs.
When you are evaluated for sleep apnea, you need a doctor who knows the importance of nasal health and anatomy. They need to look at the way your nose connects to your face, you sinuses, the septum, the palate, and the sinus structures above the larynx.
Your Physicians should look for the site of resistance increase. The nose, tongue base, the opening into the nose, and the nostrils all need to be evaluated by a person who is experienced at looking at these kind of problems. The cutting-edge VOAT Procedure is a desirable alternative to CPAP, and is a permanent solution to treating sleep apnea. Our own Dr. Dillard was the first to perform this procedure in Georgia, and has been featured in the media for his contributions to the medical field.
Are There Surgical Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can be caused by a variety of different factors. Some of these factors, such as those related to the tongue base or tonsils, can be treated surgically. Learn more here:
What's the Difference?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The “apnea” in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds and occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million American adults currently suffer from sleep apnea—so why not get treated now?
Approximately 45% of normal adults snore at least occasionally and about 25% are habitual snorers. But what causes snoring? The noisy sounds of snoring occur when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages at the back of the mouth and nose. This area is the collapsible part of the airway where the tongue and upper throat meet he soft palate and uvula. Snoring occurs when these structures strike each other and vibrate during breathing. Snoring can be both socially and medically disabling for various reasons. Socially, it can make the snorer an object of ridicule and can cause the bed partner to experience sleepless nights and fatigue. Medically, it disturbs sleeping patterns and deprives the snorer of adequate rest, but it can also be a sign of sleep apnea.
Yes, snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea—we can agree on that. However, just because you snore does not mean you have sleep apnea, and just because you have sleep apnea it does not necessarily mean you will snore. Either way, it is important to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment options. If you snore and might be concerned that you have sleep apnea, talk to your dentist or doctor—it is better to be safe than sorry.
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