Managing Breathing Interruptions During Sleep

Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) Devices

There are several different systems available that deliver air and pressure through the nose or mouth. The continuous delivery of pressurized air helps to keep the tissues in the throat open. Some continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) masks fit over the mouth and nose; others fit over only the nose. Some devices simply deliver a preset amount of air at a preset unit of pressure. Other devices are very sophisticated, delivering more pressure with every inhalation and a bit less with every exhalation. Others monitor breathing and only add pressure if the machine senses a breathing abnormality.

Unfortunately, many of the devices are uncomfortable to wear if not fitted properly. They often dry out the nose and/or mouth, irritate the skin, leave you with a headache, and are bulky and tight to wear. However, CPAP devices provide clear benefits to patients with sleep apnea that ranges from mild to severe.

Dental and Orthodontic Devices

Several dental devices are available for the treatment of sleep apnea. These devices may hold the tongue down, thrust it forward, or thrust the lower jaw forward. These devices seem to be less frustrating to use than CPAP devices, although they’re only effective as a treatment for mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Pillar Palatal Implants

This is a new procedure that allows stiffening of the palate by implanting permanent pieces of silastic, a silicone elastomer. This procedure is more effective for snoring; however, there are no studies to show benefits for sleep apnea. This procedure is done in the office under local anesthesia

Radiofrequency Ablation of the Palate and Base of Tongue

Radiofrequency heating of the palate and the base of tongue can cause shrinkage of the tissue, widening the airway. This procedure is quite successful in the treatment of snoring, but studies do not show adequate effectiveness in the treatment of sleep apnea.