Sleeping and Snoring

What is Snoring?

Snoring is a problem that afflicts most people occasionally. It is caused by the soft tissues in the throat vibrating during sleep, leading to the familiar noise that disrupts the rest of both the sufferer and their sleeping partner especially. Although in most cases snoring is a nuisance rather than a real problem, when it becomes excessively loud and persistent it can be the sign of a more serious issue, and medical advice should be sought.

How Your Type of Snoring is Diagnosed

A doctor can find out whether you have a case of ‘normal’ snoring which nearly everyone experiences from time to time, or if your snoring is in fact a symptom of the more serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnea, which requires specialist treatment.

This diagnosis is made through a sleep test, which always used to be carried out during an overnight stay in a medical center, but is now usually done at home using a simple device worn on your wrist while you sleep. During the test, your blood pressure, pulse, and other vital signs are monitored, and the information gathered will be used to decide which method of treatment is most appropriate for your condition.

How Snoring is Treated

Mild snoring can often be reduced by making a few lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, cutting down on alcohol consumption before sleep, and trying to sleep on your side rather than on your back.

In more severe cases, primarily with snoring caused by sleep apnea, a treatment known as Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) has been shown to be extremely effective. This therapy involves wearing a small device similar to a mouth guard while you sleep. This device helps keep your jaw and throat in the right position to stop your breathing being disrupted, and so reducing your snoring.

Where to Get Oral Appliance Therapy

A sleep physician will make the apnea diagnosis and recommend the use of appliance treatment. Then a dentist, such as ourselves, experienced in sleep apnea needs to decide on the most appropriate type of appliance design, and carry out the examination needed to ensure your custom-made oral appliance is a perfect fit and works effectively to reduce your snoring. If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a referral to our office will make sure that you receive an expert consultation ending with an oral appliance that fits perfectly to bring your sleep apnea snoring under control.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a chronic condition that gives rise to severe disturbance of the sufferer’s sleep. It is most common in men, but can also occur in women, especially in later life. Sleep apnea happens when the muscles in your throat relax, allowing soft tissues to fall in and block the airways, causing you to briefly awaken. This can happen many times during a typical night, even hundreds of times, and results in extremely poor sleep quality, even if the periods of wakefulness are usually too short to be noticed or remembered.

Apart from the resulting fatigue, the most obvious symptom is loud and persistent snoring, often with a snorting, gasping, or choking quality which is very distinctive.

Why Sleep Apnea Needs Treated

While mild snoring is an annoyance to the sufferer and sleeping partner, obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition that can have significant consequences. The sleep disturbance it causes can leave you highly fatigued, which as well as being unpleasant can make everyday activities such as driving dangerous. As the severity increases, untreated apnea can raise the risk of:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) which can in turn lead to heart problems or stroke.
  • Type 2 diabetes through disrupted hormone levels
  • Erectile dysfunction (impotency)

How Apnea is Diagnosed

Obstructive sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a doctor. Traditionally, an overnight stay in a medical center would be required, where sleep specialists would monitor your vital signs using complicated equipment.

A more modern, patient-friendly alternative which is used at home is a small device known as the Watch-PAT. If is worn on the wrist during sleep, and monitors your sleep patterns and the other important information the physician needs to make the diagnosis. The Watch-PAT device is now the preferred method of apnea diagnosis and has been used by over 1 million patients.

How Obstructive Sleep Apnea is Treated

There are various ways of treating apnea. One of the most successful is a therapy known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), where the patient wears a face mask bearing tubes attached to a machine which keeps the airways open. Although highly effective, this is not a particularly convenient treatment for the patient.

An excellent alternative treatment is Oral Appliance Therapy which is much simpler, more convenient, and still has a very high success rate. This involves the design of a custom mouthguard-like device which is worn during sleep, keeping the jaw in the optimum position to stop the airways from being blocked, resulting in more continuous sleep.

Oral Appliance Therapy for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) is an effective treatment in many cases of sleep apnea, reducing the amount and severity of the snoring symptoms, and leading to a better night’s sleep with all the benefits that brings. OAT works by the wearing an unobtrusive, easily-fitted device similar to a mouthguard during sleep. This comfortable appliance gently holds your jaw in the correct position to ease your breathing, keeping your airways open, and preventing the excessive snoring caused by sleep apnea.

Oral Appliance Therapy Advantages

Although apnea can be a distressing and debilitating condition, treatment of it is fairly simple using oral appliance therapy, which offers the following benefits to patients with sleep apnea problems.

  • It is a simple, safe, and non-invasive treatment that requires no medication and has no side effects.
  • The appliance is comfortable to wear and quick to become accustomed to.
  • The OAT device is easy to fit, wear, travel with, and care for.
  • It is a long term treatment that will remain effective for as long as it is used.

How a Dentist Can Help with Oral Appliance Therapy

After the initial sleep apnea diagnosis has been made by a physician, you will be referred to a dental office such as ourselves for a full evaluation of how oral application therapy can be used. This first consultation will involve a detailed examination of your mouth, jaw and airways to provide the information needed to make the device, which is designed to perfectly fit your mouth and be completely comfortable to wear.

Once the appliance is ready, you will be asked to make a second visit to our office for your initial fitting. This is a simple, painless procedure where any final adjustments to the appliance will be made to ensure a perfect fit. You will also be shown how to wear the appliance before sleeping, and advised on how to care for and clean it to keep it in the best condition.

After your first fitting, you may be referred for a further sleep study to make sure the appliance is properly adjusted, or you may continue to wear a Watch-PAT device for one or more nights to monitor the effects. You will also be given future appointments for an ongoing process of adjustment and testing that ensures the therapy carries on being effective for as long as you wear it.

What Is Dental Sleep Medicine?

If your sleep is severely disrupted by snoring, it can have significant and harmful effects on your whole life. In addition to fatigue, there are real health risks involved ranging from high blood pressure to strokes and more.

Dental sleep medicine is a branch of dentistry which deals with solving the problems caused by severe snoring through the use of treatments such as Oral Appliance Therapy, taking a convenient and effective approach to solving snoring without the use of medication or invasive surgery.

How Does Dental Sleep Medicine Treat Snoring?

Dental sleep medicine works to solve the underlying issues that cause the snoring and related problems. In many cases, excessive snoring is the symptom of a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the soft muscles in the throat relax during sleep and stop the sufferer from breathing properly. Not only does this result in particularly loud and incessant snoring, it causes the patient to momentarily awaken to restore proper breathing, leading to highly disturbed nights followed by constant and extreme fatigue.

Doctor and Dentist Working Together

It needs a qualified physician with experience in sleep disorders to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, but once the diagnosis has been made, it is down to a dentist to provide appropriate treatment. Unlike many other dentists, we are fully qualified and experienced in this specialized area of dentistry and can offer effective solutions to your sleep apnea problem. There are two main non-surgical forms of treatment.

One successful way of treating sleep apnea is with a technique called continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP), which requires the patient to sleep wearing a face mask attached to a machine, which keeps the airways open using pressurized air. While this is a highly beneficial therapy for most apnea sufferers who use it, it is less than convenient for many people, and is also not widely available.

Oral Appliance Therapy

An extremely effective and popular alternative to CPAP is oral appliance therapy (OAT), which involves wearing a special device similar to a mouthguard to help keep your airways unblocked. If your doctor recommends this therapy for you, we will conduct a full examination of your mouth, jaw, and airways, and use our measurements to make a personalized oral appliance that will gently hold your jaw in an ideal position while you sleep, keeping your airways open, and reducing or even eliminating your snoring.