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Snoring & Sleep Apnea: How Dentistry Can Improve Your Sleep and Health

Patient Question: My husband’s snoring has gotten to the point where he almost stops breathing. What can be done? And why is this a dental concern?

Snoring occurs when the soft-tissue structures of the upper airway (the back of the throat) collapse onto themselves, the tongue drops back, and air is obstructed in its movement through the mouth and nose into the lungs. As a result, these obstacles create the vibration that produces snoring.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when that upper-airway collapse becomes more profound, causing significant airflow disruption or even no airflow whatsoever for 10 seconds or more. This can be dangerous to health as blockage of the upper airway causes reduced airflow to the lungs and, therefore, low blood-oxygen levels. When oxygen levels drop low enough, the brain moves out of deep sleep and the individual partially awakens, followed by a loud gasp as the flow of air starts again.

In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, studies show that sleep apnea patients are much more likely to suffer from heart attack, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, brain damage, and strokes, as well as higher incidents of work- and driving-related accidents.
There is a dental treatment that helps with sleep apnea called oral appliance therapy. Oral appliances are worn in the mouth to treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. These devices look like orthodontic retainers or sports mouth guards but are designed to maintain an open, unobstructed upper airway during sleep.

If you need an oral appliance, it may take several weeks to create. Afterward, we will monitor your treatment and evaluate the response of your teeth and jaws. Chronic loud snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, and daytime sleepiness need to be addressed early to avoid serious health problems—all of which can affect long-term health and well-being.

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