Whether your partner is sick and tired of your nightly snoring or you constantly find yourself waking up feeling as though you haven’t had enough sleep, disordered sleep breathing resulting in snoring can be frustrating.
However, aside from being a pain during the night, snoring may be a symptom of a more serious condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which can result in a number of health conditions and needs to be treated by a professional.
Read on to learn more about how your dentist can diagnose the cause of your snoring and use advanced dental technology to provide a customised solution that will help you enjoy a better night’s sleep.
What is excessive snoring or sleep apnoea?
OSA is a condition in which the muscles of the throat and tongue collapse into the back of your throat while you sleep, causing your airway to become blocked and repeatedly stopping you from breathing. This can cause loud and excessive snoring.
What happens if sleep apnoea is left untreated?
When left untreated, OSA can cause a wide range of symptoms, from fatigue during your waking hours to headaches and memory loss.
In addition, untreated OSA can increase your risk of more serious health conditions, including:
● High blood pressure
● Heart disease
● Chronic acid reflux
● Erectile dysfunction
What are the symptoms of sleep apnoea?
If you frequently wake up feeling exhausted - or if your partner complains about your regular snoring - you may suffer from sleep apnoea.
Other symptoms of this condition can include:
● A dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
● Excessive drowsiness during the daytime
● Loud, habitual snoring that's bothersome to other people
● Waking up without feeling refreshed
● Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
● Abrupt awakening accompanied by gasping or choking
● Morning headaches
● Difficulty concentrating during the day
● Mood changes, such as depression or irritability
● High blood pressure
● Night sweats
● Low libido
● Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
● Insomnia (restless sleep) with frequent tossing and turning during the night.
While not everyone who snores will be suffering from OSA, excessive and habitual snorers should get tested to check whether this condition is causing their snoring.
What causes excessive snoring or sleep apnoea?
Technically speaking, sleep apnea or excessive snoring occurs due to the muscles in your throat relaxing. This means your airway will narrow (or close completely) as you breathe in, reducing the amount of oxygen you’re getting.
As a result, there’s less oxygen in your blood, which sends a signal to your brain to tell you to wake up so you can adjust and breathe properly again to get enough oxygen. Typically, this only wakes you up just enough to adjust your position, so sleep apnea sufferers often don’t even realise they’re waking up constantly - they just know they are unreasonably tired.
In some cases, sufferers will wake themselves up this way as much as 30 times an hour, but it can also be as low as five times per hour (which is still every 12 minutes). That makes it very difficult to get a decent, restorative sleep.
But what causes this all to happen in the first place?
Typically, the main cause of sleep apnoea in adults is excessive weight or obesity. Causes of sleep apnoea and snoring can also include:
● Family history
● Sex (men are more likely to experience OSA)
● Neck circumference
● A narrowed throat
● Certain medications
How can I diagnose my sleep apnoea or snoring causes?
A doctor who is a sleep specialist can typically determine whether your snoring is being caused by obstructive sleep apnoea. This diagnosis is performed through a sleep study, which can be undertaken at home or at a sleep centre.
This will help to determine what’s behind your snoring in order to find an effective treatment.
How can I permanently fix sleep apnoea?
If your sleep study confirms you have OSA, there are a range of treatments available to help address this condition. These treatments include:
Oral appliances to be worn at night: For patients suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea, our dentists can create a custom-made appliance called an oral mandibular advancement device. These appliances are a little similar to a mouthguard, and will prevent your tongue from blocking your airway while you sleep.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) via a nasal mask: These devices include masks that you wear over your nose, mouth or both. An air blower sends constant air through the nose or mouth to keep your upper airway's tissues from relaxing too much while you sleep.
Surgical Treatment: In rare cases, surgery will be recommended to treat OSA. This includes a procedure to remove some of the throat’s soft tissue which collapses the airway during sleep.
What does a sleep apnoea mouthguard do?
Your dentist may recommend a sleep mouthguard. A sleep apnoea mouthguard is not the same as a sports mouthguard, but it is similar.
This mouthguard is a device that your dentist will have custom made for your mouth for you to wear at night. It helps to put your jaw in a better position - a little forward - which can be quite effective for treating mild and moderate cases of sleep apnoea.
This is a common first step in treating sleep apnea, as it is quite simple, affordable, and effective.
Should I see a dentist for sleep apnoea?
A dentist can offer treatment options and advice for your obstructive sleep apnoea.
Find your nearest practice and book an appointment at your local National Dental Care Group practice today