Snoring and your health (Part 1 in a series) by Dr Kaushik Vanam

Our latest “Dentistry in Focus Article” from April 2017 is by Dr Vanam and concerns Snoring and your health. This is the first part in series by Dr Vanam.

Snoring and your health by Dr Kaushik Vanam 

While filling out your medical history form, you are asked the question “Do you or your partner snore?” Have you ever wondered why, or what snoring has to do with your dental appointment? Or even how can your dentist help fix your snoring issues?

What is snoring? 

Snoring is a noisy sound that is produced by vibrations of the soft tissues like the soft palate, throat, nose and mostly the ‘hanging’ part at the back of the throat called the Uvula (not the tonsils as some people think).

Why do we snore?

When you are asleep, your throat muscles, soft palate and uvula are all in a state of relaxation and hang loose. When you breathe, the air struggles to pass through these structures in a turbulent way to reach your lungs, thereby causing a vibration along these tissues creating loud noises.

Snoring is caused by obstruction of airflow to the lungs.  The obstruction can be at the anatomical structures in the nose, behind the nose (adenoids) or in the mouth -due to large tongue, soft palate or uvula/tonsil obstruction. It can also be due to narrow airway (pharynx) or a combination of all these factors.

OSA picture

Is snoring common?

  • Snoring is more common in men than in women,
  • Men above the age of 40 years usually are more at risk than young adults,
  • Snoring in children is increasing at an alarming rate and needs to be addressed at a young age,
  • Snoring is common in people who are overweight or obese – this is because large neck sizes constrict or narrow the air space,
  • Snoring is also common for people with blocked nose or when you have had alcohol at night.

Is snoring dangerous?

Snoring is a condition that is usually disturbing to the bed partner, or annoying enough to wake them from their sleep.

Although snoring is a common occurrence, it is usually associated with a much more serious condition called Sleep Apnoea (the stoppage of breathing while asleep).

The most common type of sleep apnoea is ‘Obstructive Sleep Apnoea’ which will be discussed in our next article.

Children rarely snore. Recent evidence suggests links between snoring, teeth grinding and obstructive sleep apnoea in children. It is most commonly due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids (structures at the back of the throat/nose).

Snoring is also a sign of disturbed sleep or sleep disordered breathing.

Persistent long term and untreated snoring is an indirect risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

What are the risk factors for snoring?

The most common risk factors for snoring are;

  • Obesity /overweight,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Anatomical abnormalities,
  • Increasing age,
  • Nasal and sinus problems,
  • Alcohol consumption and certain medications,
  • Sleep posture,
  • Family history,
  • In children – large tonsils/adenoids/frequent allergies are the common risk factors,
  • Sometimes we snore when we are too tired with no underlying conditions.

How can your dentist help?

Dentists can make splints (called Mandibular Advancement Splints or MAS, see images below) that can move your jaw forward when you are asleep and can prevent the tongue falling back. Thereby, eliminating the obstruction and thus reduce snoring.

MAS pictures
OSA correction

Dentists can also identify signs of snoring and Sleep Apnoea including if you have a dry mouth, worn out teeth or if you are a mouth breather.

How can you reduce snoring?

  • By avoiding alcohol intake before you sleep,
  • Losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle,
  • Changing your sleep posture (if you snore when lying back, you can elevate your neck by adding an extra pillow or sleeping on your side).

Please be aware that persistent loud snoring and untreated long term snoring is a risk factor for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and needs immediate and effective treatment.

This is article is the first part of a series on Snoring, Sleep Apnoea, TMJ (jaw muscle) issues and dental treatments by Dr Vanam.

About the Author

Dr Kaushik Vanam has worked at Robertson Dental Innovations since 2012. As well as heading our Saturday Team Dr Vanam is also has a keen interest in Snoring, Sleep Apnoea and TMJ issues. Dr Vanam completed a Mini-Residency during 2016 on these conditions and treatment. Our Practice is also Sound Sleeper Accredited (one of only 2 practices in regional Victoria).

Posted in Dentistry In Focus Articles, Dr Vanam