What Causes Snoring?
When the soft tissues of the upper airway touch and vibrate against each other, they produce the sound we know as snoring. Large tonsils, a long soft palate, a large tongue, the uvula, and excess fat deposits in the throat all contribute to airway narrowing and snoring. Usually, the more narrow the airway space, the louder or more frequent your snoring will be. But snoring is more than noise! Snoring could also be one of the main symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the tongue and soft palate collapse onto the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway, causing air flow to stop. In other words, it causes you to stop breathing, cutting off your oxygen intake! When the oxygen level drops low enough, the brain moves out of deep sleep and you will awaken, at least partially. You gasp for breath and when the air flow starts again, you move back into a deep sleep. The airway muscles collapse, and again the process repeats itself – sometimes hundreds of times a night.
If you have sleep apnea, it’s no wonder you don’t feel good! Your low oxygen levels and fragmented sleep are combining to cause all kinds of ill effects on your health. In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show that sleep apnea patients are much more likely to suffer from heart problems (heart attack, congestive heart failure, hypertension), strokes, as well as having a higher incidence of work related and driving related accidents.
How do you know if you have OSA?
Diagnosis is based on the results of an overnight sleep study, called a Polysomnogram (PSG). For your convenience, we can arrange for you to do a sleep study at home. This study will then be analyzed by a medical sleep specialist to make a diagnosis. Once the PSG is complete and analyzed, we confirm the diagnosis with a patient evaluation and history.
Good sleep habits, weight loss, and exercise are some helpful ways OSA patients can manage symptoms on their own. If medical treatment is needed, devices and treatments include:
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
- Oral appliance therapy
The CPAP utilizes pressurized air generated by a bedside machine and delivered through a tube that connects to a mask you wear over your nose while you sleep. The CPAP pressurized air splints the airway open, very much like blowing air into a balloon.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral Appliance Therapy involves selection, design, and fitting of a custom-designed oral appliance to be worn while you sleep. This appliance helps maintain an open, unobstructed airway in the throat.
Oral appliances work best for snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea. These small, comfortable devices are similar to orthodontic retainers or sports mouth guards. Approximately 40 appliances have been approved by the FDA for treatment of snoring and/or Sleep Apnea. Oral appliances may be used alone or in combination with other means of treating OSA including general health care, weight management, surgery, or CPAP. Oral appliances work in several ways:
- They reposition lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula
- They stabilize the lower jaw and tongue
- They increase the muscle tone of the tongue
Dr Lerner and his team at The Center for Holistic Dentistry are trained in oral appliance therapy and can determine which appliance is best suited for your specific needs. Discovering your best treatment option will be easiest with consultation between our office and your physician. Of course we will monitor your progress and evaluate your response to the appliance.
There are times where the enlargement of tonsils or the anatomy of the soft palate may create an obstruction to the throat. It may be necessary to remove tonsils and adenoids (especially in children),or correct other anatomical obstructions in the throat. in such cases we would refer you to an an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist for evaluation.
If you or your bed partner snore, please call us today and ask about a sleep apnea consultation. It could be the first step to better sleep and a healthier life!