Obstructive Sleep Apnea Explained


Oral devices. For people with mild sleep apnea, dental appliances or oral "mandibular advancement" devices that prevent the tongue from blocking the throat or advance the lower jaw forward can be made. These devices help keep the airway open during sleep. A dental expert who is trained in oral health, TMJ, and dental occlusion can check on which type of device may be best for you.

Surgery is for people who have extra or misshapen tissue that blocks airflow through the nose or throat. For example, a person with a deviated nasal septum, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, or a small lower jaw that causes the throat to be too narrow might benefit from surgery. Doctors usually try other treatments first.

Types of Surgery

These include:

Upper airway stimulator. This device, called Inspire, has a small pulse generator that the surgeon places under the skin in your upper chest. A wire leading to the lung detects your natural breathing pattern. Another wire, leading up to the neck, delivers mild stimulation to nerves that control airway muscles, keeping them open.

A doctor can program the device from an external remote. Also, people who have Inspire use a remote to turn it on before bed and turn it off when they wake up in the morning.

Somnoplasty. Doctors use radiofrequency energy to tighten the soft palate at the back of the throat.

UPPP, or UP3, is a procedure that removes soft tissue in the back of the throat and palate, increasing the width of the airway at the throat opening. (UPPP stands for uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, if you were wondering.)

Mandibular/maxillary advancement surgery. The surgeon moves the jaw bone and face bones forward to make more room in the back of the throat. It’s an intricate procedure that doctors only do for people who have severe sleep apnea and problems with their head or face.

Nasal surgery. These operations correct obstructions in the nose, such as a deviated septum.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 27, 2016



National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "What is Sleep Apnea?" “What Are Sleep Studies,” “Your Guide to Healthy Sleep,” “Who Is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?”

UpToDate: “Management of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults.”

MedlinePlus: "Sleep Apnea."

American Sleep Apnea Association.

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