Do you or your partner snore loudly? If so, you're not alone. It's estimated that more than 37 million Americans snore regularly, and about half of those do so because of a more serious condition called sleep apnea.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is the involuntary cessation of breathing while a person is sleeping. Sufferers of sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times each night, and serious health problems can result. There are several different causes of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by the airway becoming blocked by relaxed muscles and tongue.
How Is It Treated?
There are basically two routes of treatment for sleep apnea. One is called a Positive Airway Pressure Device, and the other is an oral appliance.
A positive airway pressure device (commonly referred to as PAP) fits over the nose and mouth and provides pressurized air that flows continuously or intermittently into the throat while you sleep.
Increasingly, patients are turning to oral appliances before resorting to the PAP device. These appliances look like a mouth guard and keeps the lower jaw forward a little in order to keep the airway open and prevent the tongue and throat muscles from collapsing and blocking it.
Where to Start?
The best way to begin treating snoring and sleep apnea is to determine if sleep apnea is the root cause. Working with your doctor and dentist, consider whether other symptoms of sleep apnea are present. These include the following:
- Pauses while snoring
- Gasping or choking while snoring
- Breathing cessation episodes
- Fighting rapid sleepiness during the day
- Frequent urination
- Sore throat upon waking up
If the symptoms indicate that sleep apnea could be causing the snoring, your dentist may recommend starting treatment with an oral appliance. Although such appliances may be available over the counter, a properly fitted mouth guard will do the most good in treating snoring.
If the appliance fails to relieve your symptoms, talk to your dentist about orthodontic procedures that might help as well as treatment with a PAP device.
Don't Ignore It
While snoring may be considered by most people to be little more than an unavoidable annoyance, it can signal a serious condition. Sleep apnea can cause heart problems, fatigue, liver problems, and complications with medications. If you are concerned that you may suffer from this breathing disorder, talk to a doctor and dentist, like one from Maria E Marzo, D.D.S., PC, immediately.