Treatment Options

Behavioral Modifications for Sleep Apnea

In mild cases of sleep apnea, conservative therapy may be all that is needed. Conservative approaches include:

• Losing weight
• Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills
• Changing sleep positions to promote regular breathing
• Stop smoking. Smoking can increase the swelling in the upper airway which may worsen both snoring and apnea.
• Avoid sleeping on your back

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)

Continuous positive airway pressure — also called CPAP — is a treatment in which a mask is worn over the nose and/or mouth while you sleep. The mask is hooked up to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air into the nostrils. The positive pressure from air flowing into the nostrils helps keep the airways open so that breathing is not impaired. CPAP is considered by many experts to be the most effective treatment for sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea and Dental Devices

Dental devices can be made that help keep the airway open during sleep. Such devices can be specifically designed by dentists with special expertise in treating sleep apnea.

Surgery for Sleep Apnea

If you have a deviated nasal septum, markedly enlarged tonsils, or a small lower jaw with an overbite causing the throat to be abnormally narrow, surgery may be needed to correct sleep apnea.

The most commonly performed surgical procedures for sleep apnea include:

• Nasal surgery: Correction of nasal obstructions such as a deviated septum.
• Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): A procedure that removes soft tissue on the back of the throat and palate, increasing the width of the airway at the throat opening.
• Mandibular maxillar advancement surgery: Invasive surgery to correct certain facial abnormalities or throat obstructions that contribute to sleep apnea.

Other Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

There are minimally invasive office procedures — such as the pillar palatal implant, somnoplasty, and injection snoreplasty — that are designed to reduce and stiffen the soft tissue of the soft palate. While these procedures have been effective in treating snoring, their long-term efficacy in treating apnea has not yet been determined.