Surgery for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders known to medical science. Unfortunately, there is no actual cure. There are, however, several effective treatment options that are traditionally recommended by sleep specialists. The most invasive treatment option is jaw surgery, and it is only recommended in the most severe cases. There are less invasive treatments that can help with sleep apnea, but they will not cure the disorder.

What Is Sleep Apnea And Why Is It Considered Dangerous?

sleep apnea alternatives

Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by the stopping of breathing or gasping for air while a person is asleep. While only a sleep specialist or medical doctor can diagnose sleep apnea, the condition is normally discovered by the partner of the person who has the disorder.

Usually, the partner is kept awake due to the heavy snoring or gasping for air as the affected person is sleeping. While some degree of snoring may be normal, if you are waking several times throughout the night and your partner describes your breathing as gasping several times a night, you might need to talk to your healthcare provider.

Sleep apnea is considered potentially dangerous and in the most severe cases, it could be life-threatening. This is because if you stop breathing while you sleep, your brain can be deprived of necessary oxygen. This can lead to various health issues throughout the body if it is occurring regularly.

Two Different Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two distinct types of sleep apnea and the treatments for them vary depending on the severity of the disorder. According to sleep specialists, the two types of sleep apnea are: obstructive and central.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It occurs when something is obstructing (getting in the way of) airflow into your body. The typical treatment for this type of sleep apnea is the wearing of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure Machine). If the breathing machine doesn’t adequately correct the condition, it may be necessary to look into surgical options. This is reserved for only the most severe cases, as with any surgery there are potential risks.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is the less common type. This is a harder-to-diagnose disorder since it involves signals from the brain that cause a stoppage of breathing while a person is asleep. This is commonly caused by some types of medications.

Both types of sleep apnea are commonly diagnosed after a person goes through a sleep study. Specially trained doctors and healthcare providers use a test that measures your breathing, oxygen levels, and/or bodily functions while you are sleeping.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea without cpap

After a thorough sleep study has been performed and evaluated by a sleep specialist, there are several recommended treatment options.

Breathing Devices

The most common and primary treatment prescribed by doctors and sleep specialists for obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep device. The primary sleeping device is a CPAP machine or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. This machine helps to keep the airway unobstructed as a person sleeps and helps to prevent the loss of oxygen to the brain. There are two other types of breathing devices that can be prescribed depending on the severity of the condition. These are the APAP (Adjusting Positive Airway Pressure) and BPAP (Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure) machines, which offer different types of airway support.

Oral Devices

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Oral devices are specially designed and fitted mouthpieces that help to keep the airway open by repositioning the jaw or keeping the tongue from blocking the airway while you sleep. More devices of this kind are being developed and approved by the FDA to help those who suffer from sleep apnea.

Surgical Procedures

If the other two types of treatments fail to provide adequate improvement to a patient’s sleep apnea, the next step would be to consider surgery. Maxillomandibular Advancement Surgery and Mandibular Advancement Surgery procedures are designed to make pronounced changes to the structure of the upper and lower jaw. By realigning the jaw bone, the idea is to alleviate any possible obstructions that can be causing sleep apnea.

Maxillomandibular Advancement Before And After the Surgery

For many sufferers with obstructive sleep apnea, they discover that having maxillomandibular advancement surgery results in an unexpected positive result in their appearance. By moving the upper and lower jaw forward, the realignment presents a much stronger facial profile.

Some patients have also noticed a slight widening of the nose and some even saw a slight tipping upward of the very tip of the nose. While these changes were not intended, you can imagine that some people welcomed the changes. After all, the original goal of having the surgery is to correct sleep apnea.

What To Expect After Maxillomandibular Advancement Operation?

After you have undergone this procedure, there are certain best practices to follow to ensure a quick recovery. The video below is a good example of what to expect from someone who underwent a jaw surgery.

1. Pain Control

Your doctor will prescribe some effective painkillers to help control the pain after the anesthesia wears off. Make sure that the pain is not intolerable before you begin taking the prescribed medication. Your doctor should know which kind of painkillers to give you and in what dosage, to help keep the pain under control.

2. Changes In Diet

You will have to change your diet for a few weeks until your upper and lower jaws are completely healed. It is expected that after the maxillomandibular advancement procedure, you are likely to experience some trouble chewing and swallowing food. You will need to be extra careful with what you eat or drink and reduce the risk of developing complications. For the first few weeks, you can go on a liquid diet. Milkshakes are a great option to give your body protein and energy as you recover. After 2-3 weeks you can then transition to softer foods like eggs or yogurt. As always, follow the after care advice of your doctor and hospital staff.

3. Icing

One of the safest and easiest ways to reduce pain after the surgery is to use ice to numb the jaw area. Placing ice cubes in the mouth can help reduce pain as they melt and cool the surgical area. You can do this for the first 2-3 days after the maxillomandibular advancement surgery.

4. Antibiotics Prescription

Just like with any other surgery, there is a risk of getting infections. Your doctor will prescribe you antibiotics to help prevent infections and also to reduce the swelling of your jaws. If you experience any complications, you need to inform your doctor immediately.

5. Nasal Saline Sprays

Salt water sprays in each nostril at least 3 times a day for the next 3 weeks is recommended. This will help to wash away all debris and dried blood while keeping your nose clean as you continue to heal. This also keeps the nose moist and will help you to recover quickly.

6. Avoid Strenuous Physical Activity

You will have to avoid any strenuous physical activity for at least 6 weeks. This doesn’t mean to avoid all physical activity though. It’s still safe and advisable to go for regular walks. This will help you to spend time out of bed and reduce the chances of you contracting infections or getting blood clots in the legs.

7. Elevate your head during sleep.

In order to reduce blood flow to your head and neck regions, you will have to sleep with your head elevated at an angle of at least 45 degrees for the first 7 days. This will help reduce the swelling and the feeling of heaviness in your head.

Does insurance cover jaw surgery for sleep apnea?

Since jaw surgery is performed to correct a medical condition, most insurance carriers do not consider it cosmetic or an elective procedure. For that reason, it is generally covered by insurance. However, you should always consult your insurance carrier to find out the details.


Sleep apnea is a much more common condition than most people realize. A lot of people don’t even realize when they temporarily stop breathing while sleeping, while others think their snoring is harmless. However, the dangers associated with undiagnosed sleep apnea are important to recognize.

While there is technically no cure for sleep apnea, there are several successful treatment options. The most common is the wearing of a CPAP machine while sleeping. In some cases, treatment may involve jaw surgery. Maxillomandibular advancement and mandibular advancement surgical procedures involve the realignment of the upper jaw and/or lower jaw. If you have been told by a partner that you stop breathing or gasp for air while you sleep, you should seek the advice of your healthcare provider and get a sleep study done.

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