Problems like loud snoring, noticeable pauses in breathing during sleep, daytime drowsiness and frequent sore throats or headaches upon wakening can suggest the presence of a serious health condition called sleep apnea. When sleep apnea is present, a patient stops breathing repeatedly throughout the duration of sleep. This interferes with the patient’s rest and causes physiological damage when the body does not get enough oxygen.
There are two different kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. The former occurs because of a structural predisposition for the soft tissues at the back of the patient’s throat to collapse repeatedly and obstruct the airway opening. The latter is caused by misdirection in signals from the brain to the breathing apparatus during sleep. The two types require different treatments, so it’s important to know what is causing your sleep apnea before an oral surgeon can provide treatment for the problem.
There are a number of strategies that an oral surgeon can use to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, and not all of them involve an overnight sleep study, although that may ultimately be recommended. The surgeon will begin, though, with a clinical exam of the facial structures that may be contributing to your sleep apnea. The cause may be clear from this exam. If not, the surgeon may use fiber-optic diagnostic cameras to identify the problem. If the surgeon still can’t pinpoint the issue with that tool, the patient may then be referred for an overnight sleep study.
When obstructive sleep apnea is confirmed, many patients respond well to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. In other cases, surgery to reshape the soft palate may be indicated. Your surgeon will educate you on the treatment approach that is most likely to be effective in your case.
If you show signs of sleep apnea, you should be evaluated to get a conclusive diagnosis so that you can get effective treatment. The process of getting that diagnosis may or may not involve an overnight sleep study.
Call our office to schedule a consultation and learn which diagnostic techniques may be relevant in your case.