Snoring...could be the tip of the iceberg!

 I bet everyone has heard people snore, it is that common.  Snoring can make sleeping impossible for bed partners, hurt their relationships and affect both their health that of  their bed partners due to lack of sleep and daytime sleepiness.  Often those who snore don't even know they snore. As many as 60% of men and 40% of women snore and this increases with age, weight gain, smoking,medication use, GERD ( gastro esophageal reflux) and even sleep position.  Aside being annoying snoring can be a sign of a life threatening illness called Sleep Apnea. When we sleep, breathing may occasionally and briefly stop.  When this happens frequently (many times per hour of sleep, severe being over 30 times!) and sometimes for up to 2 minutes (!) you are suffering from Sleep Apnea.  About 6% of snorers have apnea ( 80% are undiagnosed!) but 95% of people with apnea snore! People with Sleep Apnea suffer higher incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes and ultimately die younger.

Why do we stop breathing? Well it is either because our brain misses sending the breathing signals or because the airway; throat - from tongue down to vocal chords, is blocked. A blocked airway resulting in stopped breathing is called OSA or obstructive sleep apnea.

So how does the airway become blocked when sleeping? While asleep, we can lose the muscle tone and reflexes that keep the airway open when awake. The tongue and soft palate at the back of your mouth can slump back and close off the airway either partially or completely. Air going past the partially blocked floppy soft tissues vibrate (think of a flag on a windy day) and you hear the result as snoring. 

Snoring is just one of the signs that you may be suffering Sleep Apnea.  Others include being excessively sleepy during the day, having difficulty concentration and memory, depression and irritablility,overall fatigue, morning headaches and decreased sex drive. At night, awakening with gasping or choking, thrashing in bed, insomnia, frequent need to urinate and non refreshing sleep can are also signs of Sleep Apnea.

Of the different ways to manage Sleep Apnea most are familiar with a CPAP machine in which a mask with a hose connected to an air compressor is worn at night. Air is force into the nose and mouth and down to the lungs.  As you might guess many do not like to wear this.

Today it has been recognized in the Sleep Treatment Guidelines that if the patient prefers not to use a CPAP machine, an oral appliance is appropriate, regardless of how severe a persons sleep apnea is. And being small and comfortable, people are much more likely to wear the appliance and thus get needed treatment.

So what is an oral appliance for  obstructive sleep apnea and how does it work?  Many people have had teeth straightened with braces and worn dental retainers. A sleep apnea appliance is like a retainer worn on both top and bottom teeth except these are attached together.  When wearing the sleep apnea oral appliance, the lower jaw is positioned forward. And when the lower jaw is positioned forward, the back of the tongue and soft palate is pulled away from the back of the throat and the airway is widened, allowing you to breath unobstructed. The resulting refreshing sleep improves health, day time alertness and concentration and even affects hormones so as to help reduce weight gain or even lose weight. There is no downside to a good nights sleep!

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious under-diagnosed medical condition. As a dentist I will work with your MD and Sleep Clinic. Once a diagnosis and prescription for an oral appliance is provided by the physician, I can fabricate a custom appliance to start treating Sleep Apnea and Snoring.

Dr Steven Rosenblat

Great things start with a smile!  ...and a good night's sleep too!