Can Your Dentist Help You To Stop Snoring?

If your snoring is disturbing your sleep or a loved one's sleep, you're not alone: an estimated 90 million Americans snore, and half of them may have sleep apnea, a severe sleeping condition where you periodically stop breathing during your sleep. Whether your snoring is a nuisance or a health risk, there's a surprising solution: see your dentist.

Why You Snore

Snoring and sleep apnea are usually caused by your throat muscles relaxing during your sleep and partially or fully collapsing your airway. When you breathe, air makes the walls of your airway vibrate, creating the well-known snoring sound. Snoring and sleep apnea can be caused by or worsened by:

  • Weight & Age - Added weight puts pressure on your airway when lying down, which can worsen the constricted flow of air. As you age, your muscles become weaker, and it's easier for them to relax or collapse.
  • Allergies & Nose Injuries - Allergies can cause inflammation and swelling of the nasal passageways and throat. In addition, if your nose was injured or broken in the past, you may have a deviated septum which can cause or worsen snoring.
  • Drinking - Alcohol is a muscle relaxant, so even people who don't normally snore might after a night of drinking.

Side Effects Of Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Normal snoring usually has few side effects, but it can reduce the restfulness of your sleep. If you've ever been wakened by your own snoring (or even a partner waking you up to make you stop snoring), your rapid eye movement sleep cycle was interrupted abruptly, which can leave you feeling tired even after the recommended 8 hours of sleep.

Sleep apnea has more severe effects on the body. Your nightly struggle to breathe may increase your blood pressure, increase your risk of stroke, or induce a heart attack if you already have heart disease. In severe cases, a prolonged lack of oxygen can cause the brain to swell and may result in brain damage.

How A Dentist Can Help

While there are other methods that might work to reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms, dentists can give you a device that's non-invasive, fairly inexpensive and doesn't produce noise like a CPAP machine.

This method is called oral appliance therapy or OAT for short, and is similar to a retainer or invisible braces in design. Your dentist will take a mold of your teeth and jaw and sends that mold to a manufacturer who will make a device specifically made for your mouth. When it comes in, your dentist will make any minor adjustments, and you put it in before going to sleep every night.

This device gently pulls your lower jaw forward, which changes the alignment of your airway: your muscles are slightly extended, so they're less likely to collapse inward blocking your airway, and your tongue is less likely to block your esophagus.

Snoring and sleep apnea can interrupt your sleep and even put your health at risk, and many of the proposed solutions are ineffective or noisy and cumbersome. Thankfully, your dentist has a solution that's effective and easy to use. (Go here for more questions on general dentistry)