Snoring and sleep apnea (a condition that involves periods during which a person stops breathing while asleep) afflicts many people. A large portion of people with sleep apnea are not even aware that they have it. The most common cause of both involves the throat becoming closed off by the tongue as the body relaxes during sleep. Snoring often causes poor rest for the person’s partner, and apnea can be a life threatening condition.
The first step in evaluating a person for either condition is to have a sleep study done. This is undertaken by a medical doctor with training in sleep medicine. A sleep study allows the doctor to evaluate how severe the sleep apnea is by noting the number of times that he or she stops breathing as well as the level of blood oxygenation.
To treat sleep apnea, the gold standard and best treatment is called a CPAP machine. This is a device that helps to push air in during breathing to help maintain the person’s airway and, therefore, oxygen supply. This device is prescribed and fitted by a medical doctor.
Some people are not able to tolerate a CPAP machine. For these individuals and those with very mild apnea or simple snoring, a dental appliance can be a great alternative. This plastic device fits inside the mouth and gently guides the lower jaw into a more forward position. In this position apnea and snoring generally improve as the tongue is also pulled forward. Many dentists are trained to provide this service.
If you or a loved one snore or may have sleep apnea, please talk to your medical doctor or your dentist to get further information.