Aug 28, 2015 01:27PM
By Susan Welch
Snoring has been recognized as a problem for thousands of years, and classical literature is filled with references to the phenomenon. In fact, these early references often show little distinction between the words for “snoring” and “sleep”.
Forty-five percent of adults snore at least occasionally, and that may become the brunt of jokes at family gatherings, but snoring is serious business. What some might pass off as funny or merely an annoyance can have severe consequences.
Snoring is more a nuisance to those around them than to snorer. It is commonly reported that the person that snores has no issue with the noise, but family members or bed partners often report the snoring keeps them from getting a good night's sleep.
Health ramifications can be serious for the snorer. Seventy-five percent of snorers suffer from a disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), where breathing is disrupted during sleep for short periods, as reported by Daniel Slaughter, M.D., an otolaryngologist and snoring expert at Capital Otolaryngology, in Austin, Texas. This disorder is associated with myriad health issues such as increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, depression and such inflammatory disorders as Type 2 diabetes. These and other conditions are often signs of a constricted airway at night.
Having a small lower jaw or a narrow upper jaw increases a person’s risk for snoring. It is important to be able to breathe through the nose at night, just as during the daytime. Children and adults that are mouth breathers or have blockage in their nose are at increased risk for snoring. Weight gain increases the risk for snoring, not only because of the additional weight in the chest and neck area, but also because the lumen, or hole through which we breathe, is smaller, with increased fat deposits around the muscle layers of the throat.
Some snoring might be nothing more than a slight purr with mild noise, and simply changing position resolves the issue. Because sleeping on our back increases the episodes of snoring, designing a sleep posture to support side sleeping is encouraged. This can be as simple as a full-body pillow to wrap around or a sleep shirt, with a stiff object like tennis balls sewn into a back compartment.
Enhancing the diameter of the nasal passage can also help prevent snoring. Nasal dilators are collapsible, cone-shaped appliances that, when squeezed, can be slid into the nostril. When open, they dilate the passage, allowing for increased airflow and less mouth breathing. Widely available Breathe-Rite strips are one over-the-counter option. There are prescription medications that shrink the nasal tissues, but a consultation with a medical ear, nose and throat specialist is required.
For those that suffer from moderate-to-severe snoring, home remedies may not be the solution. Before self-treating with over-the-counter sprays and pills, check with a doctor about a sleep study to rule out obstructive sleep apnea. Daytime sleepiness and an increase in daytime blood pressure are two symptoms that may be indicators of an undiagnosed sleep breathing disorder.
A dental orthotic device is considered by many the treatment of choice for mild, moderate and severe snorers. These custom appliances are made by taking molds of the mouth. A thorough dental exam to determine if the teeth can support these devices is recommended, and any gum disease should be treated and stabilized before fabrication. It’s a good idea to find a dentist that has training in treating both jaw joint issues and sleep breathing disorders.
If wearing dentures, there is a tongue retention device that pulls the tongue forward, using suction, through the lips and rests outside the mouth. Common side effects from this device include tongue tingling and numbness, slight swelling and soreness, which usually fade soon after the device is removed in the morning.
The side effects of wearing a dental sleep orthotic are most commonly muscle soreness of the jaw and an increase in saliva. These generally resolve in three to four weeks as the body adapts to the new apparatus and posture. Others include soreness in teeth, tooth movement and changes in the bite, All of which can often be resolved by adjustments to the appliance.
Retail devices or those seen on TV and the Internet are not adjustable, and can’t be, per U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines. Only those made by trained dentists are adjustable and require supervision of their use. After the initial fit, adjustments and follow-up, it is recommended the appliance, jaws, muscles and dentition be evaluated annually.
Dr. Susan Welch is the owner of Wright Parkway Dental Center, located at 106 Wright Pkwy. SW, in Fort Walton Beach. For more information, call 850-243-1534 or visit WrightParkwayDentalCenter.com.