At Fort Worth Cosmetic and Family Dentistry, we meet a lot of patients who have trouble with their sleep patterns. They may feel exhausted, even after eight hours of sleep. Some may wake up several times in the middle of the night without knowing why. Many of these people lose sleep because either they or a loved one, snore. Snoring can have several causes and may indicate a more serious problem, called obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Nikki Green can develop a treatment plan to help you stop snoring and get a good night’s rest.
Snoring is caused by the vibrations of your soft and/or hard tissue palates; these vibrations occur because of increasingly narrow air passages. When air passes through these passages, a “flapping” sound occurs because the tissue is soft in nature.
Surgery on the palate to alleviate the snoring is not always successful, because the sound may originate from the tissues in the upper airway, rather than the soft palate. Men tend to have more issues with snoring than women, but this common condition can actually affect just about anyone, especially anyone who is overweight.
While not always a serious condition itself, snoring can indicate more serious and dangerous health problems. Loved ones who share a room or bed with someone who snores will experience a disruption in their own sleep patterns as well, causing them to feel tired and inattentive throughout the day.
Some of the most common causes of snoring include:
If you or your loved one snore habitually, you might be at risk for serious health issues. If your snoring causes you to lose sleep, you may suffer from fatigue and drowsiness during the day. This can lead to a decrease in your work production or even a car accident. The most serious health risk associated with snoring is sleep apnea.
Loud snorers may have a more serious case of blocked air passages, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In these cases, the blockage of air is so great that no air can get through, causing repeated awakenings throughout the night.
The condition can cause you to experience extreme fatigue due to frequent waking and a sleep pattern that keeps you in light sleep, robbing you of the more restorative deep sleep. It can cause dangerous interruptions in your breathing that can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more, and it puts excess strain on your heart, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. Patients should take habitual snoring very seriously and get help as soon as possible to avoid serious health risks.
Snoring does not always signal that a person has sleep apnea, but it does represent one of the most common symptoms of the condition. Patients should watch for other symptoms that may also indicate a problem with sleep apnea. The patient may need another person to confirm some of these symptoms.
Common obstructive sleep apnea symptoms include:
If diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may have several options for treatment. Patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea will typically use a prescription CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) or APAP (Automatic Positive Airway Pressure) machine when they sleep.
Many patients find the CPAP and APAP machines too bulky and do not like wearing a mask while they sleep. That is why, for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea, Dr. Green offers another option.
Dr. Green can provide therapy for her patients with snoring problems, including mild to moderate sleep apnea. Therapy may include something as simple as changing the patient’s sleep patterns or may require more aggressive therapy with dental or oral devices.
The doctor will discuss the many devices available, assessing their pros and cons, and help the patient choose the device that best fits their needs. Of the available options, the mandibular advancement device and the tongue retaining device tend to work for most patients.
The mandibular advancement device looks like a mouth guard you would wear for sports. When worn, it forces the lower jaw down and slightly forward. This helps keep the airway open to prevent breathing problems.
Tongue retaining devices hold the tongue in the correct position to keep the airway open. They require regular dental visits because they need periodic adjustments. The doctor will custom design each patient’s device to fit their needs and patients will finally find the rest they seek.