Statistically, men snore more than women. It could be that they sleep harder, they consume more alcohol than women, or that they simply refuse to seek medical attention for sleep-related disorders. We all have a friend who complains that their husband or partner sounds like a freight train when he sleeps. For those who have to put up with a snoring partner, sleeping in the other room can actually save a relationship. Most people think snoring has to do with breathing. And they are right. But did you know that snoring can be a symptom of a dental condition that affect your dental health? Here’s how.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Most of us are familiar with snoring when it is a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start as we sleep. It occurs when the tongue relaxes, blocking the airflow into and out of your throat. Snoring may also occur when the tissues in your nasal cavity become swollen or fill up with fluid. Men who snore are at a higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea, and since it affects more men than women, chances are good a man in your life – your husband, father, boyfriend, grandpa, or son – has kept the family up way past bedtime snoring up a storm. If you happen to be laying next to someone with obstructive sleep apnea, the experience is not only exhausting, but unsettling: deep snoring, followed by silence, then a deep gasp to retrieve air. One of the first sign of sleep apnea is bruxism – teeth grinding. Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw, signal the brain to wake you up so you can take a breath. Bruxism can be remedied by the use of night guards, de-stressing before bed, avoiding caffeine, and maintaining good sleep habits.
Palatial snoring is another form of snoring that can impact your dental health. It’s called palatial not because it could keep a palace awake, but because there is something amiss with the soft palate and uvula whose job it is to prevent liquid and food from entering the nasal cavity. When these tissues swell, become inflamed, or sag, they can block the airway between the throat and nasal cavity. And from that, expect snoring. Unfortunately, palatial snoring doesn’t go away with time and can result in dry mouth, halitosis, and tooth decay which will prompt attention from your dentist.
Chronic Sinus Issues
When your sinuses become infected, they can clog up, reducing your ability to breathe while sleeping. Also, these infected sinuses are very close to your teeth and can cause severe tooth pain. In fact, many times when a patient thinks they have an impacted tooth, the result actually is a sinus infection. If the infection does affect the root of the tooth, expect lots of pain that can lead to snoring – and even a root canal!
Missing Teeth and Snoring
Teeth have many functions besides chewing and providing a dazzling smile. They also ensure the integrity of the facial structure. When a tooth is missing, it can actually change the facial construct, which can result in a narrow upper airway. If this the case, you likely can expect to snore the night away.
Your dentist knows the signs
A dentist can examine your teeth and tell a lot about how well you’re sleeping at night – from chipped or cracked teeth from grinding and loss of saliva that results in tooth decay, to tooth sensitivity, your dentist will know the signs to look for. He also can examine the soft tissues in your mouth to see if it’s injured. If you do have soft tissue injuries, your dentist may refer you to a specialist for surgery.
Regular dental exams can detect early signs of sleep apnea; however, because some men tend to avoid the doctor and dentist more than women, they may miss important early signs of these diseases. Routine dental check-ups are the key to early detection of potentially life-threatening disorders.
You’ve been identified as having sleep apnea. Now what?
Oftentimes the first step to treatment of snoring is admitting that you snore and want to seek help. To get to the bottom of your snoring, your dentist may refer you to a sleep specialist for an overnight sleep study. These studies are non-invasive and allows doctors to monitor you while you’re sleeping to see changes in your brain and body. Upon your diagnosis, you may be referred back to your dentist for treatment.
Treatment for Snoring
One treatment your dentist may use to treat your snoring and sleep apnea is a mandibular advancement splint. This device includes an upper and lower splint that holds your jaw forward when you sleep at night. By holding your jaw forward, it can help prevent your tongue from falling into the airway while you sleep, which what causes you to snore so loudly and block your airway.
Your dentist can also teach you how to do myofunctional exercises that help train your tongue to keep the airways open while you sleep. Over time, these exercises help strengthen the muscles that support your airways at night.
If your snoring causes problems with your saliva, your dentist may prescribe you a moisturizing mouthwash to replenish the saliva and to remove the excessive bacteria from your teeth and tongue.
Your dentist may recommend that you wear a customized mouth guard when you sleep to help prevent snoring. A mouth guard helps keep your mouth closed and airways open by repositioning your jaw when you sleep. It also helps prevent grinding.
If your sleep study reveals that you have obstructive sleep apnea, you may be prescribed a CPAP machine, which uses forced air to deliver oxygen while you’re asleep.
It’s all about early detection
Dental health isn’t just about having beautiful teeth. Your teeth and gums can be a good indicator of your overall health. By getting regular check-ups, your dentist will be able to detect health conditions early, before they become serious or even life-threatening. Early detection can go a long way in preventing health problems down the road.
If you or your partner snores or has trouble sleeping, Dt. Steven Hagerman of Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of Minneapolis/St. Paul can help you get a good night’s sleep. Dr. Hagerman is an expert at providing advanced dental care, which includes early detection and screening for snoring and other sleep disorders. We look forward to providing you with the personalized care you deserve. To schedule an appointment or consultation, please call our office at (651) 646-2392. You can also request an appointment online.