Sleep Apnea: Causes and Treatments

Man Can't Stand the Loud Snoring of His Sleep Apnea Afflicted WifeThat loud snoring, those sudden choking and gasping sounds in the night, the feeling of chronic sleepiness and irritation throughout the day. Those may be signs pointing toward a very serious disorder: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Experts at the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine estimate that as many as 18 million Americans suffer from OSA and current research provides a clear link between this disorder and serious health problems, like cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, depression, and diabetes. Today, we’re taking a brief tour of what causes OSA and how many people in the U.S. have chosen to treat it.

What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea, as the name suggests, is caused by one thing: complete or partial obstruction of the airway during sleep. As the throat muscles relax during sleep, the airway becomes blocked off and the oxygen flow to the brain stops. The brain realizes that it’s not receiving enough oxygen and goes into panic mode, causing the sufferer to choke or gasp and wake up suddenly. This pattern can repeat hundreds of times during the night, leading to poor sleep quality and related health problems. An excessive amount of tissue in the throat, which could be congenital or caused by being overweight or obese can lead to sleep apnea.

Popular OSA Treatment Options

The severity of a person’s OSA usually determines their available treatment options. For people with mild to moderate OSA, treatment options might include oral appliance therapy, which is provided exclusively by a dentist with training in dental sleep medicine. Oral appliance therapy involves the patient wearing a specially designed mouthguard that allows the airway to stay open throughout the night. Oral appliance therapy can be enhanced with lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, regular exercise, and avoiding certain foods and beverages before bedtime.

Severe OSA is often treated with a CPAP machine, a soft mask that fits over the face and introduces a steady flow of air into the airway during sleep. In addition, some patients opt for surgical intervention to remove excess throat tissue or correct other physiological problems that might be causing OSA.



As a native Texan, Gregory Wright, DDS, opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To learn more, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.