How Your Dentist Can Help With Snoring
Snoring is the loud, vibrating sound that occurs when your breathing is obstructed while you’re sleeping. Snoring may indicate a serious health condition and is probably a nuisance to your partner. Over 50% of all adults snore while they sleep. Snoring can become so serious that couples must sleep separately, and if your partner does stay in the same bed, he/she probably suffers from sleep deprivation. While you and your partner may laugh about the loudness of your snoring, it can actually be part of a much more serious medical problem. If you or your partner is a chronic snorer, you should contact Dr. Angela E. Mulrooney so we can determine what is causing your snoring and work on a treatment plan immediately.
Patients who come to us for help often suffer from sleep apnea and snore chronically. Patients who snore most likely suffer from central sleep apnea rather than obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common form of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by a central nervous system dysfunction and usually occurs in people who have had a stroke or heart attack. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common type of apnea and results from a collapse of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. Sleeping patterns are interrupted when the soft tissue blocks the airway, causing the patient to stop breathing for a short period of time. When the body reacts to the lack of oxygen, you will be jolted awake to take a breath.
Contributors to Snoring and Sleep Apnea
While anyone of any age can snore and have sleep apnea, there are some factors that will increase your chances of being a snorer or sleep apneaic:
• Weight gain or obesity
• Being male
• Lack of sufficient sleep
• High blood pressure
• Anatomic abnormalities, such as nasal obstruction, small jaw, deviated septum, narrow airway, or enlarged tonsils
• Genetic predisposition
• Immune system abnormalities
• Alcohol and sedatives
• Nasal congestion
• Heartburn or acid reflux
How We Can Help
Snoring is caused by a partially obstructed airway. When you sleep, the soft tissue and muscles in your mouth and throat relax, causing your airway to become smaller. If your airway becomes small enough, your soft palate and uvula begin to vibrate when you inhale and exhale—this is the sound we call snoring.
Snoring is very common with almost half of the adult population snoring at some point in the night. According to a sleep study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) “approximately 45% of the general population, 30% of men and women over age 30, 40% of the middle-aged population, and 6% of children snore on a regular basis.” With so many people snoring, it’s highly likely that you are a snorer or that you have slept with a snorer. If you think you just have to live with this problem since nothing you have tried has helped, please give our dentist a try.
Even though you and your partner may joke about snoring, it is often associated with more serious medical problems such as sleep apnea. Snoring also affects your partner. In a Mayo Clinic sleep study, researchers indicate that snorers cause their partners to lose about an hour of sleep each night. Repeated disruption of sleep patterns can cause people to perform motor skills at or below the levels of people who are legally drunk. So, even if your snoring is not a sign of sleep apnea, it is likely that your snoring could be a real threat to your loved ones because impaired reaction behind the wheel of a car can lead to serious injury or death.
We want to treat your snoring quickly and effectively because it often leads to sleep apnea, which has been linked to numerous other medical conditions and even death. Because oxygen flow to the brain is compromised in people with sleep apnea, it can lead to serious health problems. If left untreated, patients with apnea are 4 times more likely to suffer from a stroke, and 3 times more likely to develop heart disease. Sleep apnea patients also run a higher risk of having hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. Because sleep apneaics suffer daytime fatigue due to interrupted sleep patterns, many aspects of their lives can be negatively impacted.
We offer a variety of oral appliances to minimize or control snoring. While there is no one magic snoring solution, there are several ways to control snoring and help your partner get a good night’s rest. You should limit your alcohol intake and avoid using sedatives to help you sleep. Alcohol and sedatives both increase your chance of snoring. Also, try to keep your weight at a healthy range, as weight gain is usually a factor in heavy snorers. Medication, behavioral therapy, surgery and anti-aging medication are a few of the options we offer patients who snore. Surely, we can find a solution for you.
Of course, non-surgical methods are the preferred treatment method. If your snoring is not too serious, we may simply recommend some behavioral changes such as weight loss, changing sleeping positions, avoiding alcohol, and no smoking. There is one easy trick that some of our patients have had great success with: since snoring usually is worse when lying flat on the back, a pocket can be sewn into the back of the snorer’s pajama tops. Then place a tennis or golf ball in the pocket, which will encourage the snorer to roll over to sleep on his/her side. This actually works with many of our patients.
Some dental devices have been designed to hold the jaw in a forward position. Since the tongue is attached in the front to the jaw, the tongue is held forward also when dental devices are used. Some dental devices are designed to hold the palate up and in a forward position.
Dr. Mulrooney makes all dental devices to ensure a correct fit without causing you any problems. These devices may improve snoring in 70% to 90% of cases. Some patients do find that there are disadvantages to wearing dental devices. One drawback is that must be worn every night in order to work, they can worsen temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD) symptoms, they can cause excessive salivation, and they can be expensive.
For people with narrow nasal passages, snoring can be alleviated with nasal devices or medications designed to clear nasal passages. Breath-rite strips open the anterior nasal valve—front part of the nose.
If your nasal passage linings are swollen from allergies and are causing you to snore, nasal sprays may help. Nasal saline irrigation spray cleans and moisturizes the nasal lining since environmental irritants that stay in the nose (dust, pollen, and smoke) continue to irritate as long as they are present. In cold and dry environments, the nasal passages tend to dry up. There are no side effects to using saline sprays.
Other nasal sprays that may be used to improve nasal breathing include nasal steroid sprays and decongestants. These are very helpful for swelling due to minor allergies or irritation. Steroid sprays decrease inflammation in the nasal passages and because very little of the steroid is absorbed into the body, there are virtually no side effects with these sprays. Nasal decongestants can also be used to treat snoring that is due to nasal congestion.
Nasal sprays and other medications are helpful for people who only snore when they have some type of upper respiratory infection, colds, or allergies.
CPAP—Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
CPAP is a device often prescribed for patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). CPAP works by providing a constant, increased air pressure to prevent airway narrowing while you breathe. CPAP requires you to wear a mask that is connected by tubing to a pump that keeps the pressure of the inspired air at a higher than normal level. The air pressures are adjusted individually for each patient based on their parameters of a sleep study. The problem with CPAP is that the machine is bulky, noisy, and uncomfortable. Imagine wearing a mask to sleep every night. Therefore, patient adherence to CPAP is not usually good, but when patients do use it every night, the results are typically excellent!
If you would like to learn more about snoring and how we can treat it, please contact Dr. Angela E. Mulrooney today to schedule a new patient oral health examination.