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Many people suffer from sleep-disordered breathing and don’t even know it.

There are three types of sleep-disordered breathing, and one of the most common conditions is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In OSA, a person stops breathing for various periods during the night. The gaps in breathing are referred to as “apneas.” The word “obstructive” comes in because there’s a disruption in the airflow that occurs for at least 10 seconds.

Some of the symptoms of OSA include snoring, disturbed sleep, and daytime sleepiness. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reports that OSA is a serious medical condition that affects up to four percent of middle-aged adults.

But there are other physical signs, too. “Most patients are overweight and have a short, thick neck, some are of normal weight but have a small, receding jaw,” according to the AAFP.

Causes

With OSA, two of the primary cause are excess tissue in the upper airway and the ill-formed structure of the upper airway and/or jaw.

One of the lesser-known–or, at least, less discussed–issues when it comes to causes of sleep-disordered breathing is the role that craniofacial development plays. When you have underdeveloped upper jaws, which can give your face a downward-turned or sinked-in look, this creates overcrowding that affects your airway and sleep patterns.  

Says Dr. Steven Park, an oft-cited surgeon who works in sleep medicine and author Sleep, Interrupted:

Not only are your jaws more narrow, but the soft tissues that line your breathing passageways will be much more likely to become inflamed and cause even further obstruction. Frequent obstructions can cause a vacuum effect in your throat which literally suctions up your normal stomach juices into your throat, promoting more inflammation and swelling. These juices (which include acid, bile, digestive enzymes and bacteria) can then also reach your nose, sinuses, ears and even your lungs, causing additional inflammation and swelling. If your nose is stuffy, then a vacuum effect is created downstream in your throat and the tongue can fall back much easier, whenever you’re in deep sleep (due to muscle relaxation).

Risk Factors

It’s notable to mention that men are more likely than women to develop sleep apnea. Additionally, The New York Times reports that African-Americans face a higher risk for sleep apnea than any other ethnic group in the United States.

While not all people who are obese have sleep apnea, obesity is a risk factor for the condition, especially having fat around the abdomen.

Treatment

One of the solutions at the forefront comes from BioModeling Solutions, Inc.  The company offers a way to remodel the upper airway in a process that the company calls Pneumopedics®. Re-developing the upper airway with its patented, FDA-registered Daytime-Nighttime Appliance® system (or DNA appliance®) resolves both the dental overcrowding and the underlying sleep apnea in even severe cases.