Snoring is often considered a harmless affliction. However, it may be the symptom of a much more serious medical condition: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
This condition has significant consequences. It is a serious disorder, associated with greater risk of heart attacks and increased mortality. People with OSA complain of intense fatigue during the day. It is often linked to car accidents, since the fatigue created by OSA increases the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Before beginning treatment for snoring, it is crucial to see whether the patient suffers from OSA and treat the condition accordingly. This assessment must be done by a doctor specializing in sleep disorders, most often a lung specialist.
Tests are made in specialized laboratories and diagnosis are made by physicians.
Snoring is a condition that affects more than one adult in five. It is linked to the collapse of the upper airways, caused by:
- abnormally large tonsils
- an abnormally long soft palate
- excess of fat in the throat tissues (in overweight individuals)
- a retracted lower jaw
People with these anomalies generally have no respiratory problems when they are awake. While they are sleeping, on the other hand, throat muscles relax, which further restricts the upper airways. This causes the throat structures to vibrate with the air flow, creating the condition we know as snoring.
The dentist’s role
Your dentist is the only one with the necessary knowledge to diagnose periodontal, joint and dental problems.
The dentist has the expertise to:
- decide whether your oral condition is suited to the use of an appliance
- determine the appropriate type of appliance
- fit and adjust the appliance
Following the diagnosis, the doctor determines the appropriate treatment. One approach to treating snoring and apnea is a removable device known as a mandibular advancement device, or MAD.
Studies show that it can be an excellent choice for treating the problem. A MAD is an oral appliance similar to a mouthguard, worn only at night. It moves the lower jaw into a forward position and opens the upper airways. This treatment is usually handled by a dentist with specific expertise in treating snoring, who will evaluate the patient to determine whether he or she can benefit from this treatment. It is important to note that treatment of snoring or apnea with an oral appliance will not cause any problems for the structure of the mouth and joints.
Mandibular advancement devices are intended for individuals with the following characteristics:
- Simple snoring
- Mild to moderate OSA
- Retruded lower jaw
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that affects 2% of women and 4% of men between the ages of 30 and 60.