Can Orthognathic Surgery Help Your Sleep Apnea?

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Your jaw can cause you to have sleep problems. Jaw position, size, and shape may contribute to obstructive sleep apnea. Many people don't realize their jaw can cause problems like sleep apnea. Doctors may not notice irregularities in your jaw like your dentist would.

A dentist could prescribe orthognathic surgery to help you breathe better as you sleep. Plus, you can get relief and ditch sleep apnea masks for good. Here are some things to know about orthognathic surgery and how your jaw can cause obstructive sleep apnea.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea involves a blockage of air through the nasal passages and throat as you sleep. This problem differs from central sleep apnea, which involves the nervous system. Many people snore loudly and even stop breathing with obstructive sleep apnea. As a result, people with this condition can face severe and dangerous health problems.

How Does the Jaw Cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

The most common causes of sleep apnea include obesity, large tonsils, and nasal congestion. However, some people have lower jaws that are small or misaligned. In these cases, the jaw may not be able to hold back the tongue while you sleep. When that happens, the tongue rolls far back in the throat and blocks breathing. Some people have a problem with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which also causes jaw positioning problems.

What Happens During Orthognathic Surgery?

During orthognathic surgery, the oral surgeon repositions both the upper and lower jaw and moves them forward. Braces, plates, and screws hold the changes in place until your jaw heals. You will need to stay in the hospital overnight for monitoring. Afterwards, the surgeon may ask you to take things easy and not exercise for a certain length of time.

Does Facial Appearance Change After Orthognathic Surgery?

Some people may notice a change in their face shape after surgery. After all, the jaw bones are a defining facial feature, and the surgeon repositioned them. However, most people perceive the changes as an improvement. They see a more defined jaw or cheekbones. Some people notice little or no changes in their appearance.

You may also notice a change in your bite, and some of your teeth may not touch. An orthodontist will help correct your bite once your jaw bones have sufficiently healed. The full corrective procedure with orthodontics can be long-term.

If you suspect you have obstructive sleep apnea, talk to your primary care physician first. Then, talk to your dentist. Your dentist is well-versed in the mouth and jaw. If the dentist thinks you could be a candidate for orthognathic surgery, they will refer you to an oral surgeon.