How Sleep Apnea is Treated

If you have sleep apnea, you know the devastating effects it can have on your quality of life. Sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness that can make it hard to stay awake or pay attention; it can also cause headaches and irritability. What’s more, daytime sleepiness is uncomfortable, especially when it goes on for months or years.

The effects of severe sleep apnea can have serious consequences. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health consequences, such as heart, kidney, and metabolic health problems, for example. It can also increase your risk of car accidents.

Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing for 20 to 30 seconds (or longer), several times each hour. Every time you stop breathing, you wake up a little bit – sometimes with a snort! Because you are waking up constantly, you never get that deep, restorative sleep you need for good health and well-being.

There are three main types of sleep apnea, and treatment may be different for each type. The three types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea – develops when the muscles and tissues in the back of your mouth and throat relax enough to block the airway; it is the most common type of sleep apnea
  • Central sleep apnea – occurs when your brain does not communicate properly with the muscles that help you breathe
  • Complex sleep apnea – a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea

About 39 million people in the United States have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to the National Council on Aging, and 94 percent of those with OSA snore. In fact, snoring is a telltale sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring happens when air squeezes past the narrowed or blocked airway.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea


Treatment for sleep apnea typically involves the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bi-level positive airway pressure. CPAP works by delivering a steady stream of oxygenated air into your lungs. The device delivers the air at a high enough pressure to hold the tissues of your mouth and throat in place, and prevent the airway from collapsing while you sleep.

CPAP devices feature a compressor that pumps pressurized air and tubing that carries that air to a mask. You can choose from several types of CPAP masks:

  • Full mask – a triangle-shaped mask that covers your nose and mouth
  • Nasal mask – covers just your nose
  • Pillow nasal mask – like a nasal mask, except it has a small cushion that “caps” your nose

While a CPAP can help improve your ability to sleep without waking up and lowers your risk of apnea-related health problems, there are drawbacks. The masks can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep, for example, and the flow of air can cause dry mouth, nasal congestion, and even nosebleeds.


BiPAP (bi-level positive airflow pressure) is similar to a CPAP in that it features a compressor, hose, and mask, except that it has two pressure settings: it delivers air at a higher pressure when you inhale to hold your airway open, and at a lower pressure when you exhale. BiPAP is for those who cannot tolerate CPAP or who have high carbon dioxide levels in their blood.


APAP (automatic positive airflow pressure) checks your breathing throughout the night, and automatically adjusts the air pressure to compensate for any changes in your breathing as you sleep.

Sleep apnea surgery

Sleep apnea surgery can make permanent changes that hold your airway open. One such sleep apnea procedure, known as maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), moves the upper and lower jaws forward to adjust the position of the soft tissues that cause snoring and sleep apnea. Its aim is to open the airway.

MMA is for adults who are unable to tolerate CPAP treatment. Dental surgeons have performed this procedure for more than 35 years. About 90 percent of patients experience long-term relief from sleep apnea, which is on par with the long-term success rate of CPAP.

Other Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Nerve stimulators

Nerve stimulators are a newer treatment option for sleep apnea. Implanted into your chest, the device electrically stimulates the nerve that controls tongue movement; the stimulation is time with your breathing to keep your airway open.

Many people with sleep apnea find relief in the form of oral appliances that reposition their tongue and jaw to keep their airway open. Known as mandibular advancement devices (MADs), these devices can help people who cannot use CPAP or do not want to undergo sleep apnea surgery.

What if CPAP doesn’t work for me and I don’t want to have sleep apnea surgery?

Your dentist in Las Cruces can provide sleep apnea treatment that does not involve sleep apnea surgery and is more comfortable than CPAP. This treatment uses a dental appliance, which holds your jaw in a comfortable position that keeps your airway open.

For more information on sleep apnea and sleep apnea treatments, contact Las Cruces Dental Solutions. We can help you resolve your sleep apnea, so you can wake up feeling refreshed and well-rested!

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