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Oral surgery and sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes interruptions in your breathing while you sleep. These interruptions can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes and cause fatigue, attention deficit, memory problems and mental fogginess throughout the day.

Only after the exhaustion of non-surgical treatments will a surgical approach to treating sleep apnea be recommended. Patients that believe they may be suffering from sleep apnea should consult their doctor.

This post outlines a few of the surgical options available to reduce interruptions and restore normal breathing patterns.

The three types of sleep apnea

  • Obstructed sleep apnea: In the most common form of sleep apnea, breathing interruptions are caused by a physical blockage in the patient’s airway.
  • Central sleep apnea: Central sleep apnea results in breathing interruptions due to problems with the brain’s respiratory control center.
  • Mixed sleep apnea: Patients suffering from mixed sleep apnea suffer from both mental and physical issues.

Maxillomandibular advancement

Maxillomandibular advancement is a surgical procedure where adjustments are made to the patients upper and lower jaw bones to reposition the jaw. The goal of maxillomandibular advancement is to change the structure of the patient’s mouth to move soft tissues such as the soft palate and tongue so that they do not obstruct their airway during sleep.

Modification of the soft palate

Two different surgical procedures can be used to change the shape of the soft palate when these soft tissues are observed to be the cause of a patient’s obstructed sleep apnea. In some cases, the soft palate is tightened and in other cases part of the palate must be removed.

Nasal surgery

One of the most common nasal surgeries for improved breathing and treatment of sleep apnea is to correct a deviated septum. Other nasal surgeries include the inspection of nasal passages for structural blockages that can be removed.

Tongue reduction surgery

Typically seen as a last resort, an oral surgeon may recommend tongue reduction surgery. By shrinking the size of a patient’s tongue, it is less likely that the tongue will fall back and obstruct the patient’s airway while sleeping.