What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)? Causes and Treatments

September 28, 2021

An estimated 25 million American adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses during sleep or the tongue fails to hold proper suction and falls back, blocking the airway. Individuals suffering from OSA can experience several apneic periods where they stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds. This can result in a drop in oxygen saturation levels, daytime sleepiness, mental fog, morning headaches, and a host of comorbidities, such as diabetes, depression, heart disease, and more.

Fortunately, OSA is not a life sentence, and there are solutions in place that sufferers can take advantage of. Interested in all things OSA, such as causes and treatments? Let’s dive into all the facts.


There are many potential causes and risk factors for OSA. This can include excess weight—particularly around the throat and neck—older age, the frequent use of alcohol, narcotics, or sedatives, nasal congestion or allergies, genetics, and various physical traits, such as an underdeveloped airway. What causes our airway to fail to reach its full growing potential?

The answer is still under debate. Some specialists believe that it is due to western culture and a decrease in the amount of time a mother spends breastfeeding their infant. Breastfeeding is critical to developing the mandible and maxilla as the suction brings the lower jaw down and forward, encouraging the mouth to expand as such. Others claim the modern-day soft-food diet is to blame: Impact promotes bone growth, so, without hard food for many years, a child’s jaw is soft and fails to expand the way it should.

Regardless, it is clear that the prevalence of an underdeveloped orofacial structure is on the rise, leading to worsened health issues in the long run. OSA, in particular, is a common diagnosis for many individuals who have an underdeveloped airway.

Signs of OSA

  • An enlarged tongue
  • Bruxism
  • Misalignment of the teeth
  • Frequent cavities
  • A high, vaulted palate
  • Enlarged neck circumference
  • Small or recessed chin
  • Scalloped tongue
  • Overbite
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Ground teeth
  • And more

Symptoms of OSA

  • Snoring
  • Periods of abrupt arousal, often accompanied by gasping or choking
  • Periods of stopped breathing
  • Excessive daytime fatigue
  • Morning headaches
  • A dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
  • Night sweats
  • A decrease in mental clarity
  • Mood changes, such as depression, frustration, or anger
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased libido
  • And more

The good news? Your Vivos Integrated Provider (VIP) is specially trained to understand the signs and symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB). They can screen for this condition and connect you with the appropriate healthcare provider for an at-home or in-office sleep study/consultation. This is an essential part of getting on track to start living a fulfilling life again.


Does this sound a bit scary? The good news is that there are many treatment options available for mild-to-moderate OSA. With your specific wants and needs in mind, your Vivos Provider will be able to create a plan that is right for you. It’s time to stop suffering and start living again.

Treatment Options for OSA

  • The Vivos System: nonsurgical, personalized oral appliance therapy
  • Surgical implants, tissue removal, jaw repositioning, or tracheostomy
  • APAP, BiPAP, or CPAP therapies

For individuals diagnosed with mild-to-moderate OSA, your healthcare provider may also recommend specific lifestyle changes. This can include weight loss, establishing a regular exercise routine, consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption and the use of narcotics. This will ensure you are on the proper path to a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Sleep is an integral part of overall well-being. Sleep allows us to process memory, reduces blood pressure, gives our body time to repair and replenish our systems, and more. Proper sleep is necessary for all things, which is why it needs to become a more significant part of our conversations in healthcare. Take charge of your dental practice and ensure you give your patients the best possible care by screening for OSA and other sleep-related breathing disorders.