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Understanding Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): A Guide by Alexandra Park Dental

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Understanding Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): A Guide by Alexandra Park Dental

Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that affects many people, impacting their sleep quality and overall health. But what exactly is severe OSA? At Alexandra Park Dental, we believe that understanding this condition is the first step towards effective management and improved health.

What is Severe OSA?

Severe OSA is a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep due to blocked airways. This results in significant drops in oxygen levels, frequent awakenings, loud snoring, and extreme daytime fatigue. Without treatment, severe OSA can lead to heart problems and significantly affect the quality of life.

Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA occurs when the throat muscles relax excessively during sleep, blocking the airway. Normally, when you sleep, your throat muscles relax without causing issues, allowing air to move freely in and out of the lungs. However, in OSA, this relaxation leads to airway blockage, interrupting normal breathing.

Causes and Mechanisms of OSA

The main cause of OSA is the excessive relaxation of throat muscles, combined with factors like being overweight, having a naturally narrow throat, or enlarged tonsils. These factors increase the risk of airway blockage, causing breathing to stop momentarily and waking you up briefly, often with a snort or gasping sound.

Definition of Severe OSA

Severe OSA is diagnosed when a person’s breathing stops 30 or more times per hour during sleep, with each pause lasting more than 10 seconds, leading to significant drops in oxygen levels.

Common Symptoms and Warning Signs

Symptoms of severe OSA include loud snoring, choking or gasping for air during sleep, extreme daytime fatigue, frequent awakenings, and morning headaches. People with severe OSA often feel excessively sleepy during the day, even if they spend enough time in bed.

Importance of Medical Evaluation

If you suspect severe OSA, it's crucial to get a proper diagnosis, typically through a sleep study that measures your breathing during sleep. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of serious health issues like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Risk Factors for Severe OSA

Understanding the risk factors for severe OSA can help in managing and potentially preventing the condition.


Obesity is a primary risk factor for severe OSA. Excess body weight can lead to fat deposits around the neck and throat, increasing the likelihood of airway blockage during sleep. Weight loss can help reduce these interruptions.

Age and Gender

Severe OSA is more common in older adults and men. Muscle tone decreases with age, leading to more frequent airway collapses. The risk for women increases after menopause.

Other Medical Conditions

Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disorders are linked with severe OSA. Larger neck circumferences and a family history of sleep apnea also increase the risk.

Complications and Health Implications of Severe OSA

Severe OSA can lead to serious health problems affecting various parts of the body and daily life.

Cardiovascular Health

Severe OSA puts extra stress on the heart, raising blood pressure and increasing the risk of irregular heartbeats, heart attacks, and strokes. The oxygen level drops during apnea episodes, making the heart work harder.

Cognitive and Psychological Consequences

OSA affects both the body and mind. People with severe OSA often experience memory issues, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, depression, and anxiety due to insufficient oxygen supply to the brain.

Daytime Fatigue and Accident Risks

Severe OSA causes extreme daytime fatigue, making driving and operating machinery dangerous. Those with severe OSA have a higher risk of car accidents and workplace injuries.

Metabolic Disorders

Severe OSA is linked with metabolic issues like insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes. It can also cause liver problems, including non-alcoholic liver damage.

Treatment Options for Severe OSA

A Solution for Sleep Apnea

If you are dealing with obstructive sleep apnea, you likely face a variety of symptoms that can negatively affect your overall health and daily activities. Traditionally, the primary solution has been the use of a CPAP machine, which provides a continuous stream of air to prevent breathing interruptions. While effective, CPAP machines can be bulky and inconvenient. Thankfully, there is an alternative option that provides the hope of long-lasting relief. The Vivos device represents an innovative treatment that has shown impressive results in alleviating the symptoms of sleep apnea. We are a certified Vivos treatment provider where the oral appliance is the first ever oral appliance to receive US FDA clearance as of 2023 to treat severe obstructive sleep apnea.

Vivos Device Therapy

Vivos is a personalized biomimetic device that you use every night during your sleep for a period of 12 to 24 months. Interestingly, within the first few days of using it, many patients notice a significant improvement in their symptoms and sleep quality. Dr. Lee makes periodic adjustments to ensure the best possible results. By the end of your treatment program, many patients no longer require further intervention.

This state-of-the-art therapeutic system employs a custom-designed oral appliance tailored to address mild-to-moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, it effectively treats severe cases, offering a convenient and less invasive alternative to CPAP therapy.

Lifestyle Changes and Weight Management

Healthy lifestyle changes can greatly improve your OSA symptoms, even in severe cases. Losing weight, if you’re overweight or obese, is crucial. Losing even a little weight can open your airway, reducing the frequency of breathing pauses. Quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol can also help, as can maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

CPAP Therapy

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy remains one of the most popular treatments for severe OSA. You wear a mask connected to a machine, which gives you continuous positive air pressure. This pressurized air keeps your airway open throughout the night, preventing breathing pauses and improving sleep. While CPAP is effective, some patients find the mask uncomfortable or disruptive to their sleep.

Oral Appliances

Oral appliances are a relatively new and promising option for treating OSA. Recently, Vivos Therapeutics’ C.A.R.E. devices received the first-ever FDA 510(k) clearance for oral device treatment of severe OSA in adults. This approval marks a significant advancement in OSA treatment, highlighting the effectiveness of oral appliance therapy, especially for severe cases. Vivos C.A.R.E. appliances are also intended to treat moderate obstructive sleep apnea in adults 18 years of age and older, alongside positive airway pressure (PAP) devices and/or myofunctional therapy as needed.


Understanding severe OSA is crucial for managing the condition and improving health. Recognizing the symptoms, seeking medical evaluation, and exploring treatment options can make a significant difference in the lives of those affected by severe OSA. By addressing the risk factors and adopting appropriate treatments, individuals can improve their sleep quality and overall well-being.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us at Alexandra Park Dental. We're here to help you achieve better sleep and better health.

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