Expert Diagnosis and Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring may seem like an irritating habit, but it is also a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea that leads to arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and other serious complications.

Aside from snoring, you might have obstructive sleep apnea if you experience the following:

  • Sudden halt in breathing while asleep
  • Dry mouth when waking up
  • Daytime sleepiness spanning long hours
  • Insomnia at night
  • Severe headache and moodiness after waking up.

Effectively diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea is essential in order to pursue the correct treatment. But before the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, let’s see what this sleep disorder is and why it is a major risk to your health.

What Is Central Sleep Apnea?

Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain is unable to send signals to the muscles that are used for breathing. The symptoms are similar to that of obstructive sleep apnea, while the underlying condition is different.

Central sleep apnea is the lesser common type of sleep apnea in patients. This can usually be treated by curing existing conditions that act as triggers for this disorder.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Sometimes while you sleep, your tongue and soft palate will relax causing the airway to be obstructed. As a result, you momentarily stop breathing. This sleep disorder is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Do note that OSA is different from central sleep apnea, which we have explained below.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring loudly
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Suddenly waking up and gasping for air
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular breathing pattern at night with long pauses in between
  • Irritable mood after waking up
  • Chronic headaches in the morning
  • Waking up with a dry mouth and throat
  • Unable to concentrate on normal day-to-day tasks
  • Increased need to get up and urinate at night
  • Drop in libido

Loud snoring may not always be a symptom of central sleep apnea or even obstructive sleep apnea. But if you experience a combination of the above-mentioned points, then it is time to see your doctor or healthcare specialist.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Complications

The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea alone are problematic, but this sleep disorder entails major complications if not treated. Untreated OSA can lead to

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia)
  • High blood pressure

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Although obstructive sleep apnea is common in adult patients, these are some possible risk factors to look out for –

1. Underdeveloped Jaw

Maxillary hypoplasia or micrognathia are the main contributing factors to obstructive sleep apnea. As the jaw is underdeveloped, the person’s tongue will fall backward as it does not have enough jaw space to stay in a rested position. 

The tongue will then block the airway, thus causing obstructive sleep apnea.

2. Family History of Sleep Disorders

If any of your family members or ancestors have sleep apnea, you could be at risk of it as well. OSA has been found to be heritable through both direct and indirect genetic contributions.

3. Obesity or Excess Weight

Excess weight-related conditions such as hypothyroidism, obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, etc. can contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. There can be deposits of fat in the upper side of the airway. 

This makes the area thicker and causes an obstruction, leading to disordered breathing.

4. Hypertension

People with high blood pressure are at a greater risk of having this sleep disorder. In general, sleep apnea causes the brain to pump more blood to the major areas of the body such as the heart and the brain.

If you already have high blood pressure, your body has to work even harder to pump blood, which then puts more pressure on the arteries. Such a phenomenon will result in sleep-disordered breathing because of the extra blood pressure.

5. Nasal Congestion

If you have chronic nasal congestion, it means that your breathing airways are obstructed, thus increasing the risk.

6. Asthma

People with asthma are at a higher risk of having OSA as there are already issues with their breathing patterns and airways.

7. Smoking

Constant smoking builds up tar and other chemicals right onto the breathing passageway. This makes the muscles thicker and is likely to cause obstruction while breathing.

8. Taking Sleeping Pills

Although sleeping pills might sound like a solution, they actually make sleep apnea worse as they cause more relaxation of the muscles used for breathing. 

As a result, the tissues and muscles will relax and expand, causing a further air obstruction in your breathing patterns.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment

Treating moderate sleep apnea involves the usage of oral appliances, nasal masks, and CPAP and BPAP machines. Here’s how each of these works:

  • Nasal Masks and Machines

Two types of nasal masks can be used in treating sleep apnea

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Machine 

This is the most common and effective option for obstructive sleep apnea treatment. It involves a nasal mask that fits right under the patient’s nose, with straps going around the head to secure it in place. 

The machine takes the air from the room and provides the right air pressure through the nose and mouth, providing no sort of obstruction of breathing patterns.

  • Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP) machine 

This is similar to continuous positive airway pressure but provides specific air pressure levels during inhalation and exhalation. This is typically for patients who need higher CPAP pressures while breathing.

  • Oral Appliances

This is a mouth guard-like appliance that basically holds the jaw in a repositioned state while sleeping. 

A sleep specialist and dentist specializing in dental sleep medicine will take the necessary measurements to ensure a properly fitting model of the device is made for the patient. Generally, oral appliance therapy is non-invasive. 

Using oral appliances and therapy are considered suitable treatment options for early diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. This is typically an alternative for patients who cannot tolerate CPAP or BPAP.

  • Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy

This is an implantable solution for people with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, where the continuous positive airway pressure method does not work. 

A small device is surgically implanted through three small incisions beneath the skin of the neck and chest. The device will detect the patient’s breathing patterns and provide nerve stimulation to the airway accordingly. 

Nerves that control the tongue and main airway movement are stimulated and thus help keep the breathing passage open while the patient sleeps.

Patients control the upper airway stimulation using a clickable handheld remote. The device can be turned on and off as per use. Usually, it is kept off during wake hours.

Surgical Treatment Options for Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Treating severe sleep apnea usually involves some sort of surgery that will allow proper passage of air preventing disordered breathing. These include:

Nasal Surgery

People with nasal obstruction will require this corrective surgery to cure sleep-disordered breathing. This procedure involves removing nasal polyps or straightening the nasal septum bone to keep the airway open from obstruction.

Jaw Surgery

This is usually the most effective in case of severe sleep apnea caused due to underdeveloped jaws. Both the upper and lower jaws are moved and positioned forward towards the mouth. 

The result is a bigger airway being created for breathing with no obstructions, even while lying down.

Bariatric Surgery

This is usually done in severe cases for obese patients requiring urgent weight loss. When the patient experiences weight loss after bariatric surgery, the fatty tissue is reduced in the upper airway passage. 

That way, there is little to no chance of the upper airway collapsing while sleeping.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Treatment Using Vivos

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) might be an effective treatment, but patients will have to rely on this indefinitely. 

The Vivos system has brought forth a revolutionary solution for obstructive sleep apnea which requires no surgery and is non-invasive.

How Does the Vivos System Work?

While the machine CPAP machine works to address obstructive sleep apnea symptoms, Vivos is designed to rectify anatomical irregularities that trigger OSA. 

Vivos’ technology is based on pneumopedics, which is the non-surgical process of remodeling airways using oral appliances. The dental arches are remodeled and reshaped, allowing the free flow of air while breathing. 

This reshaping process causes no other issues for the patient.

Steps for Starting Vivos Treatment

There are four important steps that a trained dentist from Vivo will guide you through to get started with your obstructive sleep apnea treatment. They are as follows:

Step 1: Conduct a Sleep Assessment

The Vivo-trained dentist will first provide you with a test. This test can have to be done in a sleep lab, or you might get provided with a home sleep apnea testing guide. 

If done in a sleep lab, your brain waves, blood oxygen levels, arm and leg movements, and other stats will be measured to check for sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. 

Some home sleep apnea tests also measure different statistics like snoring intensity and leg movements. Based on the score you get, the dentist can determine the severity of your sleep apnea. 

In turn, this will be used to judge whether or not you have sleep apnea that requires treatment.

Step 2: Make a Medical Diagnosis

Based on your initial sleep assessment results, a doctor will diagnose sleep apnea and suggest the appropriate treatment. A sleep specialist may also step in at this point for thorough analysis and provision of the best-recommended treatment. 

The doctor will also do a physical examination to inspect the nasal and jaw areas.

Step 3: Set Up a Comprehensive Exam and Treatment Plan

The trained dentist will then analyze and evaluate your clinical records and do a comprehensive exam. Through the findings, they will build a proper treatment plan tailored to fit your needs. 

It is possible that the treatment plan will include several types of therapies based on the severity of your sleep apnea.

Step 4: Follow and Complete the Treatment

The final step is to follow the treatment plan accordingly. If you go along with the plan diligently, the treatment will be more effective, and you can prevent sleep apnea.

How Does the Vivos Device Works in OSA Treatment?

Here is how the device itself works, in a nutshell

  • A mouthpiece (like dentures) that sit on your palate and on the teeth of your lower jaw.
  • Uses a daytime-nighttime appliance (DNA) system that provides gentle pressure on the palate.
  • The pressure causes the device to expand in order to correct the underdeveloped jaw.
  • The device also uses a mandibular repositioning-nighttime appliance (mRNA) system to enable the lower jaw to remain in its appropriate position while the person is asleep.
  • Both DNA and mRNA methods work together to keep the upper airway open
  • The device needs to be worn for 12-17 hours per day
  • Overall treatment process with the device takes 12-24 months to complete and achieve healthy sleep with no other sleep disorders

Benefits of Using Vivos to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Compared to other treatments, the Vivo System is highly beneficial for sleep apnea patients in the following aspects.

1. Painless and Does Not Require Surgery

The Vivo device is designed by highly qualified dental specialists to ensure a perfect fit for each sleep apnea patient. The pressure applied is very mild and causes no soreness or damage to the wearer’s teeth and mouth. 

Also, it requires no surgery or special procedure to fit in.

2. Comfortable and Nearly Invisible

Vivos system is made out of a soft and bendable material, which makes it very comfortable to wear. Also, as each patient’s device is made according to their dental framework, it ensures a perfect fit in the mouth with no discomfort. 

The device is also transparent and barely visible, so patients wearing it don’t have to feel insecure about others seeing it.

3. Ensures Long Lasting Results

Properly completing the Vivo treatment ensures the patient is free from sleep apnea for a long time. Most of the time, the patients do not need further obstructive sleep apnea therapy after completing the Vivo treatment. 

Some of the best cases have shown that older adult patients no longer had to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) long after completing the treatment.

4. Improvements Are Seen Fast

The majority of patients who have onboarded the Vivo treatment have found significant improvement in their breathing process within a short amount of time. Visible changes in breathing patterns were noticed within the first few weeks of usage.

5. Permanent Solution for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Instead of having to rely on CPAP forever, Vivo works to change the shape of the palate to allow continuous airflow while breathing. After completing the treatment properly, it ensures restful sleep with no additional treatments required in the future.

Vivos System’s Proof of Effectiveness

Recent clinical trials have shown that one out of four patients with obstructive sleep apnea had no symptoms after going through the Vivos treatment. 

This test was carried out in multiple sites and showed that 28 percent of adult patients no longer required oral appliance therapy or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) after the treatment by the Vivos system.

Another set of clinical trials showed that children undergoing the Vivos treatment had a reduction in tooth decay. The device also showed to have helped children shift from breathing through their mouths to their noses. 

Overall, Vivos was involved in 80% of obstructive sleep apnea being successfully cured. This device and system is FDA approved with a 510(k) clearance.

Is Vivos Suitable for All Sleep Apnea Patients?

The Vivos device has been designed to be suitable for the following

  • People with mild obstructive sleep apnea
  • Young children demonstrating crooked teeth
  • Those who have minor to moderate anatomical irregularities causing sleep apnea
  • Patients looking for a permanent solution to treat sleep-disordered breathing

Do keep in mind that the Vivos system is not recommended for young or adult patients with severe OSA. 

Other treatments such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or corrective surgery, should be considered in severe sleep apnea cases. The best thing to do would be to consult a sleep specialist and get the correct treatment based on the diagnosis.

Other Treatment Options for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Aside from relying on devices and machines for treating sleep apnea, there are a couple of lifestyle changes you can make to help treat this sleep-disordered breathing. Here are some options that can be considered:

1. Keep Your Body Weight in Check

Consider weight loss if you are obese. Make sure that your body mass index is at the standard level and work towards maintaining it that way. 

If you don’t have excess fat in your body, then there is a lesser chance of fatty tissues building up in the oral airway and causing an obstruction.

2. Quit Alcohol and Smoking

Consuming alcohol and smoking both cause high blood pressure, which is indicative of sleep apnea. Clean bloodstream and appropriate blood oxygen levels will ensure positive airway pressure when sleeping.

3. Try Common Drugstore Medications for Allergies

If your nose feels clogged most of the time, then you should consider using a nasal decongestant spray. This greatly helps to open up the nasal passageway and lowers the risk of nasal tissues expanding and obstructing the breathing airway. 

Instead of ignoring allergies, get proper allergy medications, as those will also prevent the swelling of airway tissues. 

4. Sleep on Your Side

Sleeping on your side is not just good for treating sleep apnea but for your overall health. Lying down on your side creates minimal to no obstruction in your breathing airway. 

If you have a bed partner, have them take off your decreased snoring while you sleep on your side instead of your back. 

Lying on one side generally creates less pressure on your organs, including your heart. That way, the air pressure entering your lungs will also be at a good level to maintain restful sleep.

5. Give Up Sleeping Pills

It is best to avoid sleeping pills even if you have insomnia. Sleeping pills cause excessive relaxation of muscles in the body, causing those and some tissues to expand. All of these results from pills can easily trigger sleep apnea.

Try less invasive methods to treat insomnia, such as calming teas and meditation. Doctors can also suggest specific exercises to treat insomnia.

Final Words

Obstructive sleep apnea may seem to start with snoring but can end in long-term cardiovascular outcomes that are nowhere near safe for your health. It is important to properly diagnose sleep apnea early so that the correct treatments can be applied.

One such treatment for mild to moderate OSA is using the nonintrusive Vivo system. Not only does it show results quickly, but it has proven to work towards removing obstructive sleep apnea symptoms altogether. 

Sleep apnea patients don’t need to worry too much, as there are many different treatment options that are all effective and guarantee healthy sleep.