Snoring can be disruptive and annoying, but it can also be symptomatic of serious issues that are important to address. Compounded with the sagging and narrowing of the throat, snoring happens when your tongue and throat muscles relax as you fall asleep. As you continue to breathe through this obstructed airway there is excessive vibration, leading to the loud noise we refer to colloquially as snoring.
In some cases the sound may be soft, but in other cases, it can be loud and unpleasant. Snoring can be caused by excess body weight, alcohol consumption, use of sleeping pills or sedatives. However, the most serious and concerning causes of snoring is Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA)
If you have ever awoken gasping for air, this may be a sign that you have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that occurs when your airway becomes so obstructed, breathing halts entirely. However, many people with OSA don’t ever awake with a gasp, and may exhibit milder symptoms like feeling tired after a night of disrupted sleep or experiencing headaches caused by a lack of oxygen circulated to the brain. OSA sufferers can suffer from hundreds of episodes each night and are often unaware of doing so.
OSA has been linked to serious health problems including:
- cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, congestive heart failure, hypertension)
- Type II Diabetes
- sexual dysfunction, impotence
- morning headaches
- dry mouth
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- impaired concentration/memory
Causes of sleep apnea include:
- Large tonsils, adenoids, or tongue
- Shape of head and neck may create a smaller than normal airway (neck size 17” or more)
- Being overweight or obese
- Snoring – Snoring can cause the soft palate to become inflamed and swollen, which in turn can obstruct the airway.
- Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
- Nasal congestion, nasal blockages, and nasal irritants
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Other physical conditions, disorders and syndrome
HOW TO TREAT SNORING AND OSAs
There are several effective ways to treat OSAs and snoring, including behavioural/lifestyle changes, the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure apparatus (CPAP) during sleep, corrective surgery to the upper airway, and oral appliance therapy (OAT). Studies have shown that OAT is effective in the treatment of snoring and mild to moderate OSA.
Left untreated, OSA can shorten the average life span by 10 years.
ORAL APPLIANCE THERAPY
Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, fitting and use of a specially designed oral appliance that maintains an open, unobstructed airway in the throat when worn during sleep. Custom-made oral appliances are proven to be more effective than over-the-counter devices, which are not recommended as a therapeutic option.
Dentists with training in oral appliance therapy are familiar with the various designs of appliances and can help determine which is best suited for your specific needs.
ADVANTAGES OF OAT
- Oral appliances are comfortable and easy to wear. Most people find that it only takes a couple of weeks to become acclimated to wearing the appliance.
- Oral appliances are small and convenient making them easy to carry when traveling.
- Treatment with oral appliances is reversible and non-invasive
- Most patients prefer it to CPAP
DISADVANTAGES OF OAT
- Requires regular dental supervision to ensure proper use
- May produce side effects such as soreness of the jaw, teeth and mouth
- Not suitable for some patients with pre-existing TMJ conditions
- Permanent changes in the position of teeth and jaw can occur in some cases where patients use it on a long term basis
If you think that you or someone you know suffers from sleep apnea, please contact Dr. Belza for more information or to book a consultation.