Understanding Snoring & Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Snoring can be a warning sign that normal breathing is not taking place during sleep. While there are many conditions that can lead to snoring, one of the most serious is a disorder called Sleep Apnea
. For an estimated 20 million Americans, the ability to maintain regular breathing during sleep is impossible. As a result, they do not receive adequate oxygen their body needs to rejuvenate from proper, restful sleep.
Snoring is a breathing noise that occurs while someone is sleeping. The actual snoring sound is produced from the vibration of the soft palate and sides of the throat when air rushes against them. The sound of snoring occurs when the airway collapses and the muscles fail to maintain their normal function.
A few of the medical and dental conditions that can lead to snoring are: being overweight, a constricted or retruded jaw, sedatives, allergies, alcohol before bedtime and airway obstruction.
While snoring disrupts the sleep of those close to us, it also interferes with our own sleep and overall health.
Apnea is a Greek word that means “want of breath”. Sleep Apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for at least 10 seconds up to thirty times or more a night therefore apnea is defined as the temporary cessation of breathing during sleep.
Snoring may be indicative of sleep apnea which can put great strain on the cardiovascular system. This is why sleep apnea, left untreated, increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Other complications of sleep apnea include: high blood pressure, morning headaches, sudden short-of-breath awakenings, chocking or gasping, automobile accidents and daytime sleepiness as well as difficulty concentrating, thinking and remembering.
When sleep apnea is suspected, a patient should consult with their physician or a sleep specialist for an assessment. Most likely, the physician will suggest a test called a polysomnogram. This sleep study monitors breathing patterns, sleep stages and cardiac rhythm along with airflow and length of non-breathing episodes. Once diagnosed, the most common treatment for sleep apnea are Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, dental appliances or Oral Appliance Therapy or Surgery.
CPAP consists of an air compressor and mask which delivers pressurized air through the nose when a person is sleeping. This opens up the airway from the inside. The biggest hurdle for using this method of treatment is compliance. Many patients feel claustrophobic and others find wearing the mask to be offensive.
Surgery is the most invasive method of treatment which may involve nasal surgery, palate implants, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), tongue reduction surgery, genioglossus advancement and maxillo-mandibular advancement.
Oral Appliance Therapy is a conservative approach to treatment of sleep apnea. It is indicated for patients who have been diagnosed with mild or moderate sleep apnea or for those with severe sleep apnea that cannot tolerate CPAP therapy. The custom made dental appliance is made to wear during sleep which gently moves the lower jaw forward causing a positive change in tongue position. Oral Appliance Therapy is non-invasive, reversible and easily accepted by patients. A dentist who is specially trained in Dental Sleep Medicine can provide Oral Appliance Therapy for the treatment of snoring
&/or obstructive sleep apnea.
-Dr. Manoj Maggan