Although oral surgery isn’t usually the first line of treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), surgical intervention can provide a highly effective solution.
Oral surgeons use various techniques to enlarge the airway, and procedures can involve any of the bones and tissues within the jaw, mouth, throat and nose. In some cases, surgical treatment can be a multi-step process.
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, or UPPP, is the most common sleep apnea surgery. This procedure involves removing excess tissue from the soft palate and throat, along with the tonsils. During UPPP, an oral surgeon may also reposition tissues and muscles obstructing the upper airway.
Three structures of the nose — the septum, turbinates and nasal valve — can contribute to OSA. Therefore, oral surgery to treat the condition can involve adjusting, reducing or removing tissue in the nasal area to create more space to allow for smoother, easier breathing.
Soft Palate Implants
For mild OSA, reinforcing the soft palate with small rods — an oral surgery technique referred to as the pillar procedure — can be effective. Inserting the rods reduces snoring, as their presence makes it less likely that the soft palate will obstruct the back of the throat during deep sleep.
Surgically repositioning the hyoid bone, located in the neck at the base of the tongue, can enlarge the airway in the lower part of the throat. With hyoid advancement sleep apnea surgery, the bone is pulled forward and secured to the thyroid cartilage.
To treat OSA, an oral surgeon may perform surgical procedures that involve the tongue. With base reduction, the tissues at the tongue’s base are trimmed or reduced. During tongue advancement, a section of the jawbone in the area where the main tongue muscle attaches is moved forward.
For some patients, obstructive sleep apnea surgery involves jaw advancement. With this surgical procedure, an oral surgeon mobilizes the upper and lower jaws, then pulls them forward to open the entire upper airway.
This sleep apnea surgery is an option for some morbidly obese patients, but the technique is generally reserved for severe cases for which all other treatments have failed. This oral surgery is considered extreme, as it creates an airway passage directly between the trachea and the lungs.
For many patients, oral surgery can put a permanent end to obstructive sleep apnea. That said, surgical intervention isn’t always a viable option. To determine your best treatment approach, consult the professional team at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.
Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield, our highly trained, board-certified oral surgeons, have extensive experience helping OSA patients in the greater Salt Lake City area. Contact Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele today, and our expert team can help you determine if oral surgery is the best way to overcome the challenges of living with obstructive sleep apnea.