Snoring — Talk To Your Dentist To Get Help
What Is Snoring?
Approximately 90 million Americans snore on a regular basis. Snoring might not seem like that big of a deal, but it often points to more serious underlying health problems, including sleep apnea. Snoring is the loud, buzzsaw-like sound that occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in the back of your throat. Whenever you inhale or exhale, the tissues vibrate.
Almost everyone snores from time to time, but if you snore regularly, or it causes you to wake up multiple times throughout the night, it could point to a more serious health problem. In addition, snoring can interfere with your spouse’s or significant other’s sleep, causing strain in your relationship.
What Causes Snoring?
With the National Sleep Foundation estimates that up to half of the U.S. population snores, it might seem like something too normal to be worth mentioning to a doctor, let alone a dentist. However, snoring happens when the airway is obstructed during sleep, whether by the tongue or the soft tissues in the mouth. In many cases, snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, which has a variety of negative effects on the body that range from fatigue all the way to cardiovascular problems.
Snoring is often associated with obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that causes the soft tissues at the back of your throat to relax during sleep. When this happens, the tissues can collapse until they block your airflow completely.
Your brain senses the sudden lack of air and forces you to wake up and gasp for air (which often results in a choking or gasping sound), and this process can repeat as often as hundreds of times throughout a single night. However, these episodes are over so quickly that you may not remember any of them in the morning.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. Snoring happens as a result of the narrowed airway and the gasping during those brief moments of wakefulness.
Other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea apart from loud snoring include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Headaches in the morning
- Chronic fatigue
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
- Sore throat
- Mood changes (depression, irritability)
- Decreased libido
Many people with sleep apnea are unable to get a truly restful night of sleep because the sleep apnea episodes prevent them from reaching REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the most rejuvenating stage of sleep. Sleep apnea lowers blood-oxygen levels due to hours of ineffective breathing, which is why it can lead to lower energy and psychological symptoms like difficulty concentrating. We also need healthy sleep in order to get the most out of our immune system and manage stress.
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
Anyone could have obstructive sleep apnea associated with loud snoring, but there are several risk factors that make it more likely:
- Excess weight: fat deposits around the upper airway can obstruct breathing.
- Advancing age: sleep apnea becomes more likely with age until it levels off in our 70s
- Narrowed airway: some people inherit naturally narrow airways or have large tonsils or adenoids that contribute to blocking it
- High blood pressure (hypertension): both a symptom and a risk factor
- Chronic nasal congestion: those who have nasal congestion at night are twice as likely to have sleep apnea
- Sex: men are two to three times more likely than (pre-menopausal) women to have obstructive sleep apnea
- A family history of sleep apnea
What Does Snoring Have To Do With My Teeth?
A snoring habit is often paired with mouth breathing, which leaves the mouth dry and more vulnerable to the bacteria responsible for tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Snoring doesn’t always mean sleep apnea, but when it does, an oral appliance can help keep the airway open to facilitate healthier, more restful (and quieter) sleep.
Dr. Purdy Can Help
You might be surprised to learn that the dentist is one of the best people to help with snoring-related issues. If you or someone in your household snores regularly, give us a call at (915) 593-1833 or email us to schedule an appointment so that Dr. Purdy can see the impact it’s having on the snorer’s dental health and arrange a test for sleep apnea.