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Sleep Apnea and Snoring: How Jaw Surgery Can Help

Posted May 30, 2018 in Sleep Apnea

Snoring man and young womanFor the vast majority of our lives, breathing is an automatic action that we rarely have to consider. Despite how little we have to think about it, it is one of the most fundamentally necessary functions to our health. Oxygen deprivation can cause a slew of immediate and long-term health issues.

While we are awake and conscious, recognizing flaws or interruptions in our breathing pattern is fairly straightforward. Can you breathe freely? Great. If not, the obstruction is usually easy to identify. However, a significant problem arises when we shut our eyes to sleep; while we are unconscious, our muscles and tongue begin to relax, and that relaxation can lead to an obstruction of the airways we use to breathe throughout the night. The difference is that this time, we are not lucid enough to troubleshoot and correct the obstruction. This condition is referred to as obstructive sleep apnea.

Patients who are suffering from the most severe case of OSA may only be able to turn to surgery as a viable cure.


OSA affects up to six percent of adults and two percent of children in our population. Those who suffer from the condition may experience excessive daytime sleepiness, impaired alertness, and vision problems. All of these symptoms increase the risk of driving and work-related accidents. If left untreated, OSA can also lead to health conditions like diabetes, liver disease, high blood pressure, and even death from asphyxiation.

During an OSA episode, a pause in breathing as long as a few minutes can occur multiple times throughout the night. Snoring is a common precedent to a total halt in the breathing process, but there may also be choking or snorting sounds once breathing resumes. If you or a someone you know has demonstrated one or more of these symptoms, feel free to set up a consultation with our office to discuss it in further detail.

Risk Factors

There are a few risk factors that increase your likelihood of a sleep apnea diagnosis:

  • Being male
  • Excessive weight
  • Age above 40
  • Large neck size
  • Enlarged tonsils or tongue
  • Small jaw bone
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Allergies
  • Sinus problems
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Deviated septum

Of the six percent of the population affected, males are roughly twice as likely as females to be diagnosed with sleep apnea. It also becomes much more common between the ages of 55 to 60 years old, although it can affect any age group. Consuming alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers may also promote sleep apnea by relaxing the muscles in the throat. People who smoke are diagnosed with sleep apnea three times more often than non-smokers.


After a sleep apnea diagnosis has been made, our doctors will attempt to remedy the issue through CPAP treatment or dental appliances. It is only after these methods fail that surgery is considered. Due to the unique anatomy of everyone’s muscle tissue, each sleep apnea surgery needs to be individualized to ensure the efficacy of the procedure. Here are a few circumstances that would constitute surgical consideration:

Pillar Device Treatment

This treatment involves installing thin, narrow strips of polyester across the soft palate in order to stiffen its structure. The collapse of the soft palate is one of the most common causes of sleep apnea, and this procedure helps to prevent that collapse from occurring while the patient sleeps.

Base-of-Tongue Advancement

There are a couple of ways that doctors can advance the tongue to expand the natural breathing airway:

  1. Genial Tubercle Advancement – This procedure pulls the tongue forward in order to increase the free space available in the back of the throat and mouth.
  2. Hyoid Suspension –  This procedure involves pulling a bone in the throat toward the Adam’s apple in order to expand breathing airways.

Multi-level Surgery

Bimaxillary advancement surgery is one of the most effective approaches to curing sleep apnea. In fact, the Stanford Center for Excellence in Sleep Disorders Medicine achieved a 95 percent cure rate for sleep apnea through this surgery. This method is often combined with genial tubercle advancement for the most effective results.

If youx would like more information on the dangers of sleep apnea or would like to get started on solving your symptoms related to sleep apnea, feel free to give us a call at 310-361-3363.