Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which a person's breathing stops and starts, and it can be a serious condition. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to treat sleep apnea if you suffer from this disorder. Here are some common sleep apnea treatment options that an ENT specialist might recommend.
Sleep With a PAP Machine
The most common way to treat serious cases of sleep apnea is with a positive airway pressure machine (PAP machine).
This machine goes over the nose and mouth, and it actively delivers air to the upper airway so that pressure is maintained in the airway. By maintaining pressure, a PAP machine keeps the airway from collapsing and prevents the stops in a person's nighttime breathing.
Many patients who rely on a PAP machine get a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP machine), but this isn't the only type of PAP machine available. Depending on the specifics of your condition, an ENT specialist might instead prescribe an autotitrator machine or a bilevel machine.
Use an Oral Appliance
An oral appliance is a passive way of treating sleep apnea, as it doesn't actively deliver air to the upper respiratory system. Instead, an oral appliance goes into the mouth so that it pushes the lower jaw and tongue slightly forward. This enlargens the upper airway, thus making it less likely that the airway will collapse and cause a stoppage in breathing.
An oral appliance is frequently used in more mild cases of sleep apnea, where a PAP machine isn't necessary. The appliance might also be used in moderate and severe cases if a PAP machine proves ineffective for some reason.
If you use an oral appliance, the appliance will have to be custom-fitted to your mouth by a dentist who specializes in this area of dentistry. You should still see an ENT before going to the dentist, however, because an ENT has the medical knowledge that's required to determine whether an oral appliance, PAP machine, or other treatment is the best option.
Undergo Oral Surgery
In some situations, oral surgery may be an appropriate way to treat sleep apnea. This is usually reserve for situations where other treatments are inadequate, but it might be necessary if there's a physical abnormality that's affecting how a person breathes while they're sleeping.
Only an ENT specialist can determine whether oral surgery is appropriate. If it is, the surgery will be performed by an ENT.