What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can be defined as a pause in breathing lasting more than 10 seconds during sleep. During each episode of pause in breathing, the brain of the sleeping person wakes up momentarily to allow breathing to resume. These awakenings, if they are frequent, lead to a fragmented and very poor quality of sleep, even if the person is not aware of it. If left untreated, it can lead to major health problems.

Causes :

  • Shape of the face and neck: broad neck, retrusive or fleeing chin, narrow face
  • Upper respiratory tract size
  • Narrow pharynx – long palate
  • Size of adenoids and tonsils
  • Nasal obstruction / mouth breathing
  • Age
  • Sex (men are more at risk)
  • Overweight
  • Respiratory allergies
  • Consumption of alcohol and / or medication
  • Smoking
  • If you are affected by the following medical conditions; You also have an increased risk of sleep apnea :
    • Hypertension (high pressure)
    • Angina and arrhythmia
    • Depression
    • Myocardial infarction
    • Atrial fibrillation (heart rhythm disorder)
    • Paralysis
    • Diabetes
    • High cholesterol
    • Hypothyroidism


  • Snoring
  • Drowsiness
  •  Insomnia
  • Choking with wakefulness during sleep
  • Waking with dry mouth or sore throat
  • Morning headache
  • Loss of memory
  • Depression


Sleep apnea is diagnosed from a specialized test called polysomnography or sleep study. This test confirms the diagnosis of a sleep disorder, recognizes an associated pathology and guides the therapeutic decision. This is done in the sleep laboratory. It consists of recording different parameters during sleep. You have to sleep with several electrodes or sensors attached to different places on the body. Thereafter, all the data collected are compiled, processed by software, analyzed by a sleep technologist and reviewed by a sleep specialist to establish the diagnosis.



Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). PPC means that air is pushed by continuous positive airway pressure to keep them open.

Oral appliances

After a consultation visit with the surgeon, he may prescribe a dental device specially designed to relieve your moderate symptoms of sleep apnea. This device is molded to your teeth and is used during your sleep. It serves to keep your tongue and jaw in an advanced position, which prevents them from going backwards and blocking your airways.

Surgical Approach

In many cases, sleep apnea can be corrected by surgery.

Here are some examples; Orthognathic surgery, uvulo-palato-pharyngo-plastie, tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, radiofrequency treatment, laser surgery.

Advice and prevention

  • Stop smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation and avoid taking sleeping pills or muscle relaxants
  • Treating nasal congestion and allergies vigorously
  • Adopt a regular sleep schedule
  • Sleep on the side

Your Maxillofacial Surgery Specialist

Dr. Nadia Rizkallah

DMD, FRCD(c), Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Dr. Nadia Rizkallah obtained a doctorat in dentistry at the University of Montreal in 2008.  She then went on to complete her studies in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Montefiore Medical Center of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine located in New York City. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada in her specialty.

She teaches dental students as an oral surgery clinician at the University of Montreal as well as general practice residents in the Notre-Dame Hospital – CHUM (catered mostly for medically compromised patients as well as trauma patients). She now works in private practice and is affiliated with the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in St-Jérôme as well as Notre-Dame hospital – CHUM.

In her spare time, Dr. Rizkallah enjoys biking outdoors, spinning, hiking and trekking, improvising new cooking recipes without forgetting the most important part of savouring them.

Dr. Nadia Rizkallah is a member of the following dental associations: