Snoring is often one of the first symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea so don’t be surprised if your dentist asks if you snore. If your dentist or hygienist notices evidence of tooth grinding sleep apnea may be suspected.
Snoring and Health Problems
While many see snoring as a mild problem, there is research showing that it could factor into some serious health conditions. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that snoring and associated apnea may be associated with artery damage and atherosclerosis. The study also presents the possibility that snoring and apnea is are factors in ischemic stroke. Snoring and sleep apnea can also cause a range of issues not directly related to one’s health including marital discord and daytime fatigue.
Using a Snoring Appliance
The common treatments for snoring and sleep apnea include the use of CPAP and dental appliances. The two major types of snoring appliances are mandibular advancement devices and tongue retaining devices. Mandibular advancement devices fit over the upper and lower dental arches and look similar to the mouth guards used by athletes; they work by pushing the lower jaw forward to keep the airway clear. Tongue retaining devices work by holding the tongue in the right position to keep the airway open. Both types of snoring appliances are especially useful for treating sleep apnea and snoring in patients who sleep on their back or stomach.
If you snore excessively, talk to your dentist about getting tested for sleep apnea and treatment options with a custom fitting dental appliance to suit your specific needs. If you already have been diagnosed, but are unable to tolerate CPAP, a dental sleep appliance may be just the ticket. Often these appliances are covered by medical insurance.
Peter J. Samuels, DDS is a local Gettysburg dentist and a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.