A: The answer is complex. Each patient presents differently, so you’re going to have to spend a fair amount of time going through some diagnostics. You’re going to go through sleep studies, airway studies, you’ll visit with us in the dental chair, as well maybe an ENT. The quick answer is yes—It can be fixed. The first step in determining whether it can be fixed is to come to visit your dentist. We’ll talk through the various options that we know we can provide. As well, we’ll give you the other specialists you might want to see to try and get treated.
Snoring is a condition that affects over 40% of Americans nationwide. In fact, you’ve probably been affected by snoring in some way either directly or indirectly. Snoring can vary in both type and degree of severity. It can be something simplistic in nature, or it can be symptomatic and require diagnostics.
No matter the severity or type of snoring one has, snoring is often associated with several side effects including:
- Increased mental and physical fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased stress/cortisol levels
- Reduced libido
Those side effects are just what the person snoring suffers through, but often a snorer’s partner suffers lack of sleep on their behalf. Lack of sleep can also be a serious health hazard—physically and mentally. Most cases of snoring are naturally discovered by the snorer’s partner as the person snoring often has no idea of the problem.
Fortunately, there are many treatments available to reduce or eliminate snoring—but first, you must diagnose the cause.
What causes snoring?
Once we fall asleep, our muscles begin to relax, including the muscles in your throat. This relaxing can result in the soft tissues in your throat vibrating which is the snoring sound we all know of.
However, just because your muscles relax doesn’t mean you will automatically snore. Many factors can increase your likelihood of snoring such as:
- Alcohol/medication use
- Certain conditions such as a deviated septum
For most patients that suffer from snoring, it is usually isolated instances. In these cases, it is relatively harmless for the patient and they are not aware of it. However, their partner is the one who endures lack of sleep due to the disturbance.
Snoring can also be a component of a more dangerous condition—obstructive sleep apnea or “OSA” for short. If this condition is not corrected properly, it can cause complications that can be life-threatening.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
OSA is a type of snoring condition that is much more serious than isolated instances. For brief intervals, your airway becomes obstructed by your collapsed throat muscles. The blockage of the airway cuts off oxygen supply which can have serious consequences over time. The amount of time your airway is blocked varies but there are generally two classifications of severity:
- Apnea– This is where muscles in the throat collapse severely enough that it completely blocks your airway for at least 10 seconds or longer.
- Hypopnea – While not a total blockage—this still blocks about 50-75% of the airway. It causes shallow or hindered breathing for at least 10 seconds.
Each of these complications can happen several times throughout the night and are identified by loud snoring or difficulty breathing. Often, the shallow breathing is accompanied by snorting, gasps of breath, and wheezing. These problems cause disruptions of sleep for both the person suffering and their partner. However, while the partner is often aware of the disruption, the person suffering usually has no idea. The person suffering from OSA just knows of the after-affects—the fatigue, headaches, and other varying symptoms. All a byproduct of not getting enough oxygen for extended periods.
There are many common factors paired with instances of obstructive sleep apnea such as age and fat distribution. Therefore, middle-aged men’s odds of suffering from OSA are more than double that of similarly aged women.
What Causes Snoring And How Can I Prevent It?
Although many people who suffer from OSA-related snoring seek treatment from their primary care doctor, their dentist might hold the key. At the very least, dentists can play a major role in treating OSA because often, dental problems cause OSA or at least compound the issue. In fact, three main dental problems usually play a huge role in snoring issues such as OSA.
If you still have your wisdom teeth, they could cause trouble when they begin to erupt through the gum line. Often, these teeth are in a very tight spot in your jaw and your mouth can’t accommodate them properly. Due to this, some wisdom teeth grow in at an abnormal angle or only grow in partially, which can cause many issues.
For example, some of our patients that suffer from wisdom teeth that don’t erupt all the way experience swelling and pain. This is because when the tooth only partially erupts, there is a flap of soft tissue that grows over the exposed part. Often the tissue becomes inflamed or infected which is called “pericoronitis.” You will know pericoronitis by symptoms such as a foul taste in your mouth, tender gums, and snoring.
Due to the inflammation and discomfort, pericoronitis causes people to open their mouth when sleeping which often contributes to snoring. If the condition is not corrected, the problems will continue and infection may also spread causing more issues. You should see your dentist ASAP to correct any wisdom teeth issues before the issues are compounded.
Snoring Caused by Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD)
On the side of your face where the front of your ear and lower mandible come together is the temporomandibular joint,(TMJ). If that joint is not aligned properly it’s classified as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
Those who suffer from this condition tend to clench or grind their jaw throughout the night. Often this causes them to wake up with a tension headache or dull face pain. The more important factor is—this disorder often means the lower jaw sits too far back. When sleeping, the muscles in the jaw trying to support the misalignment relax. Because of the misalignment, the tongue when relaxed sits too far back in the mouth as well. This causes an obstruction that leads to snoring.
Jaw And Tongue Positioning
OSA, the more serious form of snoring we have mentioned, is often caused by jaw and tongue positioning issues. As people sleep, the tongue relaxes along with the jaw usually towards the back of the throat. However, with some patients, especially those with the aforementioned TMD, this positioning can be extreme. When that is the case, it blocks the airway, leading to OSA which many patients suffer from.
One common dental solution to this cause of OSA is the use of an oral appliance to properly align the jaw and tongue. This customized device is molded to fit your mouth and holds your lower jaw in a forward position as well as the tongue. This results in elevating your soft palate which helps to keep the airway open as you sleep. Patients that get this oral appliance custom-designed for them get a complete turnaround. Their sleep is more restful, their energy levels increase, and their mental clarity is improved in the mornings.
Tired Of Snoring? Call Us Today!
Our dental sleep medicine experts here at CDG of Houston can help you with your OSA or snoring treatment. We will diagnose your issue as well as work with other medical professionals if necessary. A healthy night of sleep is important for your overall health, so don’t go another sleepless night with headaches and fatigue.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and get the great night’s sleep you deserve. We are ready to serve you!