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Why would I need surgery for sleep apnea?

Today our dentists in Winnipeg discuss sleep apnea. It is a breathing disorder that could have a negative effect on your emotional, mental and physical health. Our dental team also talks about the situations where surgery would be needed to treat this condition.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that can have significant impacts on your overall health and can be defined as frequent, brief breathing interruptions during sleep.

If your airway gets partially blocked, your palatal tissues vibrate, creating the sound everyone knows as snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the airway becomes fully blocked for periods of time.

As you could imagine, this condition has serious negative effects on the mental, emotional and physical health of patients. There is a variety of treatment options available to you, including oral appliances and CPAP machines. In rare situations, surgery might also be recommended.

How can sleep apnea impact my health?

Sleep apnea could lead to a range of serious mental and physical health conditions that can cause several symptoms, such as interrupted sleep in the short term putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease, depression, and eventually, premature death.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

If sleep apnea goes untreated it can put you at risk for numerous health conditions, including:

  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Extremely loud snoring
  • Awakening with a headache or dry mouth
  • Problems with memory, or memory loss
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Depression

As you might already know, snoring can also cause sleeping problems for a spouse. However, there is hope in finding the right treatment method that considers the patient's needs and could effectively resolve this medical condition.

How is sleep apnea treated?

There are many treatments for sleep apnea that can be successful. Depending on your needs, a dentist might recommend:

Oral Appliances

A dental professional could offer or recommend custom-fitted oral appliances to shift your tongue and lower jaw muscles to help the airway stay open. This can help airflow and keep you from waking during the night.

CPAP Machine

Known as Continuous Positive Air Pressure Machines, these electronic devices use an internal fan to draw air inside. The air is then humidified and pressurized before being sent to the user through a connective base and face mask, which they breathe through.


Dentists typically like to take a non-invasive approach to dental care, reserving surgery for rare cases that can’t be successfully treated with other methods such as oral appliances or lifestyle changes.

Do I need sleep apnea surgery?

If no other treatment options have been successful one or more surgeries might be recommended such as:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) to remove and reposition excess tissue in the throat and widen the airway.
  • Radiofrequency Volumetric Tissue Reduction (RFVTR) to shrink and tighten tissues in and around the throat.
  • Septoplasty and Turbinate Reduction to straighten a bent or deviated nasal septum.
  • Hyoid Suspension to pull the hyoid bone (located in the neck) forward and help secure it in place, enlarging the space for breathing in your lower throat.
  • Maxillomandibular osteotomy (MMO) and advancement (MMA) for people with severe sleep apnea. The bones of the jaws are cut and should heal over months.

These are a few surgical procedures that could effectively treat sleep apnea. A dentist might recommend a less common one depending on your case and requirements.

Contact our Winnipeg dentists with any questions you have about sleep apnea and its treatment methods. 

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