Snoring is a common problem for many people, one which not only affects the quality of sleep of the person snoring, but also the quality of sleep of their loved ones and other family members.
It is estimated that more than 80 million people in North America snore while sleeping, and while snoring itself may not be dangerous, it is a sign of another major health condition: sleep apnea.
Snoring or Sleep Apnea: What’s the difference?
Typically, snoring is caused by the relaxing of the muscles and soft tissues in the throat and mouth, making the air passage smaller. The decrease in space through the airway makes it harder for each breath to get through, and when it does get through, it moves over the soft tissues in the mouth and throat and causes a vibration that results in the snoring sound.
If you are drowsy during the day with no explanation, snore loudly, or wake up breathless in the middle of the night, your snoring may be something more serious: sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep, as many as 20-30 times per hour. Each time you stop breathing in your sleep, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain, which temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing. Since the time spent awake is so brief, most people with sleep apnea don't remember it, and many believe they are getting a good night's sleep when, in fact, they are not. The constant wake-sleep, wake-sleep cycle prevents those with sleep apnea from achieving deep sleep, resulting in a constant drowsy feeling during the day.
There are three categories of sleep apnea. The most common is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and occurs due to a physical blockage, usually the collapsing of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. Less common is central sleep apnea (CSA), in which breathing stops because the muscles involved don't receive the proper signal from the brain. And some people suffer from "mixed" or "complex" sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central.
The following symptoms can indicate the presence of sleep apnea. If you notice one or more of these, contact our practice.
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Loud snoring at night
- Waking up at night short of breath
- Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
- Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Extreme drowsiness throughout the day
Treatment of Snoring and Sleep Apnea with a Mandibular Advancement Device
If you snore or suffer from sleep apnea, then a mandibular advancement device (MAD) may represent a solution and a better night's sleep. The MAD is a specially designed dental device that gently helps keep the lower jaw, or mandible, in a forward position, to increase the space between the airway passage and help you breathe better so you can get a full, quiet night's sleep.
Some devices also stop the tongue from falling back over your windpipe. Your dentist will fit these special appliances to meet your individual condition.
Is a MAD comfortable?
The answer is simple — YES! A mandibular advancement device is made to be comfortable, so that you can sleep without even noticing you're wearing it. It does not prevent you from breathing with your mouth open and will even eliminate snoring for patients with sinus congestion or allergies. You may experience some slight stiffness of the jaw for the first few mornings after wearing the device, but this feeling is only temporary, and will go away after you wake up and remove the device.
To learn more about a mandibular advancement device, contact our practice and schedule an appointment and consultation.