Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain -- and the rest of the body -- may not get enough oxygen.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): The more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
Central sleep apnea: Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe due to instability in the respiratory control center.
Am I at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
Being over age 40
Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
Having a family history of sleep apnea
Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
According to new research that received the Graduate Student Research Award on Saturday, June 5, at the 19th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, the ratio between tongue volume and bony enclosure size in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may help dentists calculate oral appliance treatment success.
Although mandibular advancement splints (MAS) have been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for OSA, predicting efficacy in individual patients is problematic.
The researchers assessed whether anatomical factors such as craniofacial size, upper-airway soft tissue volume, and/or the anatomical balance between them, were associated with MAS treatment outcome.
The study included 49 OSA patients. Patients were at least 18 years of age and had mild to severe sleep apnea. They were without other sleep disorders or serious comorbid medical or psychiatric disorders.
Each patient was fitted for a custom two-piece MAS, which was worn during sleep. Treatment outcome was assessed by polysomnography after approximately six weeks of oral appliance therapy.
Of the 49 patients, 24 responded to the treatment, demonstrating an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) reduction of 50 percent or more. Body mass index and age did not differ between responders and non-responders, but responders did have a lower baseline AHI, indicating that their sleep apnea was less severe before treatment.