Snoring can be disrupptive to sleep patterns for both those who snore and their partners. Snoring occurs when air is obstructed through the mouth and nose. About half of us snore at least at some point in our lives. Men snore more than women, it tends to run in families and it becomes more prevalent the older we become.
Common reasons that people snore include:
Clogged nasal airways due to allergies, a sinus infection or even a deviated septum.
Poor muscle tone in the throat and nose. Normal aging can cause these muscles to relax.
A long, soft uvula and/or palate.
Consumption of alcohol, cigarette smoking, use of sleeping pills or other substances.
An incredibly deep, restful sleep.
Snoring can be quite disruptive for a bed partner (it only sometimes wakes the snorer up), but it can be a health hazard for the person who snores. While light snoring may not be bothersome, heavy snoring may be a sign of what is called obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep condition that experts believe is a risk factor for stroke, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems.
Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, which can cause those who have it to stop breathing several times a night. Apnea also presents as choking or gasping sounds when the person snores.
How Your Dentist Can Help
Dentists are aware of the health issues associated with snoring and sleep apnea, so much so that the profession has an academy that watches the problem, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM).
If you go to your dentist for help with your snoring/sleep, he or she may recommend that you undergo oral appliance therapy. (Your dentist will give you a prescription for an oral appliance to be custom made for you.) An oral appliance is comfortable and is something akin to an orthodontic retainer or mouth guard. It works by helping to keep your jaw in a forward position while you sleep, helping to keep your mouth’s upper airway open. The AADSM says wearing an oral appliance is often effective in treating snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
Many insurance plans (medical and/or dental) cover oral appliances and your dentist will look at your mouth’s particular shape and condition and recommend one that’s right for you (the FDA has approved more than 100 different types). If your snoring is lighter and more of an annoyance for your sleeping partner rather than a health hazard, your dentist may recommend losing weight (overweight people snore more than those who are a health weight), quitting smoking (if you’re a smoker) or sleeping on your side.
If you – or someone you love – snores and you’re worried it might be more than “mere” light snoring, make an appointment with your dentist. Visit www.jeffersondentalclinics.com for more tips and resources.