The causes of snoring and sleep apnoea
Many a great relationship has gone west as a result of snoring and sleep apnoea issues.
It’s true snoring and sleep apnoea can affect almost anyone. It is estimated that habitual snoring occurs in almost one in four adult women and nearly half of all adult men. A host of studies also backs up the theory that both sexes are more likely to snore as they age.
But before discussing how your dentist can assist with these issues, it is perhaps pertinent to first define the differences between the two afflictions.
The difference between snoring and sleep apnoea
There can be a number of different reasons for the occurrence of snoring. But it most commonly occurs when the soft tissue structures of the upper airway loosen or collapse during sleep. When the tissues begin vibrating against each other, the sound known as snoring then occurs.
Sleep apnoea is a sleeping disorder that is characterised by pauses of breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. Such episodes can last for a few second to 30 seconds or even longer. There is frequently a snoring or choking sound as normal breathing resumes.
But while many people with sleep apnoea will snore, not everyone who snores has sleep apnoea.
How does your dentist deal with this?
Often one of the first ways dental professionals can tell if a client has or is likely to have sleep apnoea is because the client falls asleep in the chair during appointments.
When a client, or their significant other, approaches our clinic with these types of issues, the very first thing we do is recommend a comprehensive exam. We investigate things such as whether they snore, whether they fall asleep behind the wheel when driving and whether they find they are woken up in the middle of the night by a sensation they might be choking.
What we can do about snoring
If the main issue is found to be snoring, we as dentists can provide the client with mandibular advancement devices. Worn on the teeth during sleep, the split is used to prevent the soft tissue from collapsing into the airway and disrupting normal breathing patterns.
There are loads of different devices in the market but some are more popular than others. I choose to use a TAP 3 appliance. Similar to a clear retainer, it’s for the top and bottom teeth. It has a hook system that ensures your lower jaw is positioned forward from your upper jaw. The extent of the protrusion can be altered to suit. I prefer this device as it also offers freedom of movement laterally as opposed to other appliances that the client wears in one place.
Every case should be individually assessed to ensure the right device is selected.
Sleep apnoea—a serious issue
However, it is important to note such devices can only be issued after a sleep study has been organised. This is to ensure there are no other issues at play. Only a sleep clinician can diagnose sleep apnoea.
In our clinic, I am able to directly refer clients to sleep study specialists. In fact, we have a sleep study technician who is able to come and meet with the client. They can give them the apparatus which they can use at home without the requirement to attend a specialised sleep centre.