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Your Oral Health

Snoring: Can You Do Anything About It?

Snoring is a widespread problem, affecting 30-45 percent of the population. When taking into account those who are disturbed by snoring (spouses and children) that number doubles. It can have social consequences, disrupting marriages and roommate relationships. Snoring can also have medical consequences, preventing a good night's sleep so that individuals wake up fatigued; or more seriously, it may be a by product of obstructive sleep apnea, in which the one who snores momentarily stops breathing during sleep. To objectively identify the problem, an overnight sleep study (polysomnogram) needs to be administered by a medical doctor

The sound of snoring results from the vibration of the uvula (tissue hanging from roof of the soft palate) and the back of the soft palate. 

The sound of snoring results from the vibration of the uvula (the tissue dangling from the roof of the soft palate) and the back of the soft palate. It is caused by a narrowing of the air passages in the throat due to a variety of factors including; long uvula or soft palate, large tonsils, excess fat deposits, blocked nasal passages from a cold or allergies and/or the relaxation (collapse) of the musculature of the throat and mouth during sleep.

Presently, there are three methods that offer relief from snoring. The most common utilizes a device called CPAP (continuous positive air pressure). A stream of air is pushed through a tube connected to a mask that covers the nose. The continuous air pressure forces the airway to stay open during sleep.

There are a large variety of plastic appliances, similar to mouthguards or orthodontic retainers, which are worn while sleeping. Some appliances reposition the lower jaw (mandible) forward while others retain the tongue in a forward position. Essentially, they maintain an open, unobstructed airway in the throat. These appliances may be contraindicated for bruxers (people who grind their teeth).

A third technique to consider is a relatively simple surgical procedure called uvulopalatoplasty. Some of the tissue from the soft palate and uvula, which collapse during sleep, is removed. This is usually performed in-office under local anesthesia. Sometimes IV sedation is used for greater relaxation. Patients may experience a moderate to severe sore throat for about a week after surgery.

Chronic snorers should call their dentist for more information.

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