Sleep Dentistry & Snoring

Sleep is not just time out from our daily life. It is an active state important for renewing our mental and physical health each day. More than 100 million Americans of all ages, however, regularly fail to get a good nights sleep. Most sleeping disorders (sleep apnea/snoring) lead to a lowered quality of life and reduced personal health. These disorders can cause difficulties in falling asleep and or staying awake. Disruption of an individuals sleep cycle can lead to excessive daytime drowsiness which can cause traffic and industrial accidents as well as many serious health issues. Sleep disorders are diagnosed and or treated by many different healthcare professionals including general practitioners and dentists as well as specialists in sleep medicine, neurology, pulmonary medicine, psychiatry, psychology, and pediatrics.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

While we sleep, the muscles that stiffen and open the throat tend to relax and can lead to a slight narrowing of the throat. As the airway narrows, tissues in the back of the throat begin to vibrate and cause you to snore. With obstructive sleep apnea, loud snoring may lead to the complete collapse of the airway thereby preventing oxygen from reaching into the lungs and thus, increasing the effort to breathe. Eventually, this increased effort to breathe awakens the brain causing the individual to gasp for air which disrupts their sleep cycle. The continual arousal from sleep due to these obstructions can occur between a few times a night to several hundred.

How do I know if I have OSA? 

Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea may include the following:

  • Excessively loud snoring
  • Generalized daytime sleepiness
  • Inability to focus
  • Irritability
  • Morning headaches
  • Frequent nighttime bathroom trips

Some of the risks associated with obstructive sleep apnea are increased motor vehicle accidents, decrease in work performance, high blood pressure, increased heart failure or heart attacks, stroke, depression and diabetes. If you have one or more of the above symptoms you should see a sleep specialist or your primary care physician.

What is a sleep study (Polysomnogram)?

Your physician/sleep specialist may have you do an overnight sleep study if he or she thinks that your snoring/OSA is a problem. This study is called a polysomnogram and will chart your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It will also record how your arms and legs move. This study should clearly show if you have sleep apnea or any other related sleep disorders.

How is OSA/snoring treated?

The treatment you need depends on whether you have simple snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, then your treatment will vary depending on the severity of your disease. Your physician/ sleep specialist will be able to decide which treatment is best for you.

The following are treatment options for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Weight loss
    Weight loss may decrease the severity of snoring or sleep apnea and should be a priority for any overweight person with OSA.
  • Positional therapy
    Sleeping on your side instead of on your back may help some but not all people with snoring or sleep apnea.
  • Avoiding alcohol, muscle relaxants, and certain medications
    These substances are known to increase snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
    CPAP is the standard treatment for moderate to severe cases of OSA. It also may be used for mild sleep apnea. CPAP provides a steady stream of air through a mask to keep your airway open as you sleep.
  • Oral appliances
    An oral appliance resembles a form of nightguard. They are approved for treatment of snoring and for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, as well as severe obstructive sleep apnea when CPAP is not tolerable. Oral appliances keep the airway open as you sleep by holding your lower jaw forward. The devices used by our dentists at IGDNC are fully titratable for each patient and are approved by the FDA for snoring/obstructive sleep apnea. Oral appliances are convenient, comfortable, reversible, and significantly less expensive than more involved therapies. Oral appliance therapy may be used in conjunction with other treatment modalities. Our dentists can work with your physician and / or sleep specialist to provide you with an oral appliance that works best for you.
  • Surgery
    Surgery may be an option if other treatments fail to improve your snoring or sleep apnea. Surgery is used most often when a physical or growth abnormality obstructs your breathing.