A continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) is a treatment option for those with sleep apnea or other breathing problems. The CPAP consists of three major parts: a mask that fits over the mouth and nose with straps to hold it in place, a tube that connects the mask to the motor and the motor itself, which generates airflow. The pressure from the CPAP prevents the patient’s airway from becoming blocked so that they can sleep with less snoring and pausing in their breathing.
An oral appliance is another treatment option for those with mild or moderate sleep apnea or chronic snoring. The device resembles an athletic mouth guard and is custom-fit to the patient’s mouth. It works by supporting the jaw in a forward position to ensure the airway remains open. The advantages of an oral appliance are that it is usually comfortable, easy to wear, convenient and simple to care for, portable and doesn’t make noise like a CPAP. Your ENT will work alongside your dentist to ensure your oral appliance is effective and well-fitting.
Sleep Apnea Surgery
Surgery may be necessary if you have sleep apnea that has not been effectively treated with an oral appliance or CPAP or if there is a significant anatomic obstruction. The surgery required varies depending on what is causing the sleep apnea. In children, sleep apnea is commonly caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids; in this case, the patient would undergo a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. Other types of surgery can correct a collapsing soft palate, a poorly set jaw, a swollen tongue, excessive throat tissue or other structural problems that may cause blockage in the airway.
Tonsils & Adenoids
The tonsils and adenoids are lymph glands made up of tissues, fibers and white blood cells in the body’s immune system. Tonsils are the two round lumps in your throat that the doctor examines when he tells you to stick out your tongue and say “ah.” Tonsils are prone to swelling, soreness and abscesses when they become infected. Swollen tonsils can obstruct the throat and make swallowing, breathing and sleeping difficult.
Adenoids have the same function as tonsils, but they are located in the throat behind the nose and above the soft palate. Adenoids are prone to the same conditions as tonsils, but they can cause additional problems with the ear, because the adenoids are located near the Eustachian tubes. Symptoms of adenoid and tonsil infections may include sore throat, stuffy nose, bad breath, earache, fever, swallowing difficulties and snoring.