What causes obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring?
Simple snoring is caused by soft tissue partially obstructing the airway during sleep. In Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) the airway is obstructed causing people to stop breathing periodically while they’re asleep.
Snoring and OSA are common respiratory disorders. More than 25% of adults snore regularly.
Up to 4% of adults suffer from the dangerous condition OSA.
All too often snoring problems are joked about but they should be alerting the patient and the patient’s sleep partner to a potentially serious medical problem.
How can a dental appliance help?
A dental appliance works to prevent snoring and OSA by slightly changing the position of the upper airway structure while sleeping.
Can a dental appliance help in all cases?
How effective a dental appliance will be depends on several factors: the severity of the OSA, weight and bone structure of the patient, the anatomy of the airway and whether the appliance can be tolerated. Medical history and cigarette and alcohol use are also taken into consideration
An appliance is generally prescribed for “simple” snoring and mild OSA. They may be used in certain circumstances in moderate to severe OSA however a complete resolution of OSA is less likely.
The advantage of using a dental appliance is its simplicity. It is non-invasive (no surgery necessary), reversible, and cost-effective and the benefits can be life-changing.
Dental Appliances are only prescribed after detailed examination and screening. Patients with suspected OSA will need their GP or a sleep physician to conduct a sleep test to diagnose OSA and determine its severity and the most appropriate treatment method.
How do these appliances work?
Dental appliances work by repositioning your lower jaw forward while you are asleep. When the lower jaw is brought forward the tongue is also encouraged forwards and the upper airway space is increased. This is achieved with a minimal increase in your mouth being opened during the night.
Are these appliances successful?
Rates of success vary depending on many factors but there are reports of over 90% success for “simple” snorers.
Are there any side effects of using dental appliances?
Yes, some patients do report side effects that are usually temporary. These may include:
Dry mouth, increased saliva flow, facial/jaw discomfort, bite changes on waking, nausea, choking sensations and unpleasant tastes have all been reported as possible temporary side effects.
In the longer term, permanent bite changes can occur: these may require treatment but this is unusual. In most patients, the change will not affect appearance or function.
The appliance works by mechanically altering the jaw position. It does not change the individual’s likelihood of snoring without it, therefore it is a long-term therapy and the appliance will need to be replaced at intervals. Annual reviews will ensure the appliance remains effective and dental health is maintained. Recurrence of snoring or an increase in daytime sleepiness will need prompt attention.
Why should I stop snoring?
All sleep studies have shown that the lack of sleep caused by snoring and OSA has wide-reaching effects including daytime sleepiness (at work and while driving), poor motivation, higher stress levels, and lack of energy for the snorer AND the snorer’s sleep partner.
High Blood Pressure
The shortage of oxygen and adrenaline rush associated with snoring and OSA, and even the waking process itself, will “shock” the system, which will increase blood pressure. In addition, the broken sleep cycle of a snorer’s partner may lead to his or her health problems.
Increased Risk of Diabetes
Links have been found between snoring and OSA and an increased chance of developing diabetes.
OSA is linked with the development of depression. Reducing OSA has been associated with improved management of depression.
It is well understood that broken sleep, snoring and OSA may reduce the sex drive of both the snorer and their sleep partner
Snoring affects the snorer, the partner and the rest of the family. Tiredness can cause irritability, moodiness and lack of energy. Many snorers sleep in different rooms to their partners, some even on the sofa! If your own or your partner’s snoring is having a negative impact on your life please consider making a change.
What to do next
Please contact us for a FREE Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Questionnaire with your sleep partner.
The questionnaire will be analysed without charge and you will be contacted with the result. Whether you are treated in our clinic or referred to your GP for a sleep study, diagnosis or on-referral to a specialist –
a good day always starts with a good night’s sleep!
Note: Currently Dentists may only screen for OSA via questionnaires. Diagnosis of OSA requires either a home or clinic-based polysomnography test, which must be prescribed by a Medical Practitioner or Specialist to be eligible for Medicare rebates.
Dr Katherine Bailey is a member of the Australian Sleep Association