Now that we know the definition of Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA what causes this Sleep Disordered Breathing problem and how do we recognize them. The most obvious reason is being overweight, as little as 5-10 extra pounds can cause snoring and lead to apnea. Always remember, everyone who snores doesn't necessarily mean they have OSA however, everyone with sleep apnea will snore.

Overweight causes about 50% of apnea cases. Jaw structure and oral soft tissue anatomy cause most of the other half. Men are at a higher risk but women are very much prone to OSA. No matter the cause this disorder can lead to a great reduction in one's "Quality of Life" as well as being "Life-Threatening" as indicated in the signs and symptoms listed below:

  • Heavy Snoring
  • Frequent Night Arousals
  • Restless Sleep
  • Nighttime bruxing (Tooth Grinding)
  • Wake Up Exhausted
  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  • Morning Headaches
  • Short Term Memory Loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Reduced Cognitive Ability
  • Temperamental Behavior
  • Poor Job Performance
  • Impotence or Loss of Sex Drive
  • Cardiovascular Implications:
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart Failure

If you or anyone you know suffer from these symptoms it would be a good idea to make an appointment with a medical/dental professional familiar with Sleep Apnea so we may make a screening or initial diagnosis through a few questions and clinical examination. If this appointment proves positive and we need a more definitive diagnosis we will refer you for an overnight sleep test called a "polysomnography" at a sleep lab, usually a hospital or an at-home sleep test. The test measures and registers some 10 various effects on the body from sleep deprivation such as blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, depth of sleep, and most importantly the severity or # of times you stop breathing per hour. It is with these parameters that we can best determine a therapy program.

Treatment Options:

  1. CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP is the Gold Standard of Therapy
  2. Nighttime Oral Appliance Therapy to Advance the Lower Jaw Forward Opening the Airway
  3. Various Surgeries: These work well i.e. orthognathic surgery when the cause is due to jaw structure. 

CPAP, although the gold standard for treating sleep apnea, it is awkward, cumbersome and challenging therefore a very low compliance rate. On the other hand "Oral Appliance Therapy" has been proven to be quite effective in most cases of apnea especially when coupled with life style alterations and quite portable!

There is a high probability medical insurances will cover appliance therapy as well as CPAP with a diagnosis of Sleep Apnea!

Personal Life Style Changes:

  1. Weight loss, even as little as 5-10 lbs can make a difference
  2. Sleep on your side whenever possible. A trick is to sew a tennis ball into the back of a tee shirt
  3. Minimize alcohol intake especially two hours prior to bedtime
  4. Avoid sleeping pills and antihistamines as they are muscle relaxants


Alcohol and sleeping pills depress breathing and exacerbate sleep apnea.

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