Thursday, March 12, 2015

Snoring, What's the Big Deal?

Dental Appliances for Snoring and Sleep Apnea

            People who snore generally do not get a good night’s sleep and their sleep partners have their sleep disturbed too. The snoring person may also have obstructive sleep apnea which can shorten their lives significantly. Often our patients are motivated to seek treatment by their sleep partner. The snoring patient is often unaware of the severity of their problem.
            Our office can make appliances which can help with the snoring, but first some things should be investigated before starting treatment. Since a majority of people who snore suffer from obstructive sleep apnea they should be evaluated for sleep apnea. This condition is much more serious and can shorten lives. There are also non-snorers who have obstructive sleep apnea.


            What is obstructive sleep apnea and what are its symptoms? Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where breathing stops for several seconds and this may occur many times per hour. The individual is not normally aware this is happening. The symptoms which can result from sleep apnea are; increase risk of stroke and heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, morning headaches, poor mental acuity, weight gain, sexual dysfunction and bruxism.

            How is obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed? The condition is diagnosed with a sleep study. This is either done at home or in a sleep lab. The study will measure respiration rate and oxygen saturation as well as other factors to determine if the condition is present. This study and diagnosis would be done by a physician specializing in sleep medicine.

            Why and how is obstructive sleep apnea treated? Since the symptoms secondary to sleep apnea are very serious it is very important that obstructive sleep apnea be treated. There are several treatment options available.
            1. A Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is one treatment choice and can be used for mild to severe apnea cases. This machine supplies air under pressure to a mask which fits over either both the mouth and nose, or covers the nose only.
            2. In some cases surgery may be an option.
            3. A third choice would be a dental appliance which repositions the lower jaw to open the airway in the throat area. Different appliances are used to treat snoring and sleep apnea but the sleep appliance will greatly decrease snoring. Dental appliances are indicated as primary treatment options for mild to moderate apnea and can also be used for non-compliant CPAP patients.
A second sleep study should be done to confirm the success of any treatment option.


            In summary, people who snore or have other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea should be evaluated by a sleep physician. This condition shortens lives significantly and can usually be treated with a non-invasive treatment which can result in improved quality of life as well as extend lives. Dental appliance, CPAP machines, a combination of CPAP and dental appliance, or surgery are treatment options. There are also dental appliances which can treat snoring and improve sleep quality for the snorer and sleep partner.

By Billy C. Ballard DMD

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