Exploring the Latest Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Some 22 million Americans are believed to be suffering from some form of sleep apnea.

While that’s undoubtedly an alarming figure, what is more alarming is the fact that about 80 percent of moderate and severe cases of sleep apnea are still undiagnosed, says Bend, Oregon, dentist Dr. Kelley Mingus.

This condition is characterized by a blockage of the upper airway during sleep. This obstructs the free flow of air and disrupts your good night’s sleep, something every person needs in order to function at their best, Mingus says. Sleep apnea can put sufferers at risk of hypertension and heart disease, among other serious health conditions.

Mingus treats sleep apnea and is committed to learning about the latest treatments for this dangerous condition. Mingus says Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, therapy is the gold standard for treatment at the moment. The CPAP device must be worn to prevent airway blockage during sleep. However, many patients just can't stand the use of the CPAP machine as their primary method of treatment. 

"So many patients come to me asking me if there is any alternative to using the often uncomfortable and noisy machines every night for the rest of their lives," Mingus says. "I'm always so glad to provide them with a much simpler treatment method using oral appliance therapy." 

Mingus says new possible treatments for OSA include Hypoglossus Nerve Stimulation and Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure. HNS was approved for use in OSA patients in 2014. The procedure involves the surgical implantation of a device into the chest. The device monitors breathing and keeps the upper airway open. It has been shown to work, and with few side effects.

EPAP, on the other hand, involves the use of disposable adhesive valves that are usually placed on the nose during sleep. As you inhale, the valve opens to keep the airway open. As you exhale, this airflow is directed into other small channels that create pressure, working to keep the airway open. With the airway open, there’s little to no obstruction to warrant breathing pauses during sleep.

Kelley says both HNS and EPAP seem to have a high level of adherence, which, of course, is key to any successful treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. He believes many patients may find the easiest and least invasive option - oral appliance therapy - to be the best solution to their sleep apnea troubles.