Snoring is a turbulent process resulting from a partial obstruction of the airway. It occurs when air flows past relaxed tissues in your throat causing the tissues to vibrate during breathing and creates those irritating sounds. Often, snoring is simply a nuisance but occasionally, it may indicate a more serious condition, better known as obstructive sleep paean (OSA).
People with OSA take shallow breaths and intermittently STOP breathing for brief periods of time while asleep. This is due to a complete blockage of the airway resulting in absent air flow. When the brain experiences low blood oxygen levels, the sleeper partially awakens, often with a loud gasp, to clear the obstruction and resumes normal airflow. This cycle repeats itself throughout the night with similar disruptive sleep patterns, which can ultimately lead to life-threatening cardiovascular problems. It has been associated with the following conditions.
Although many people may suffer from sleep apnea, it often goes unnoticed by the patient as they are asleep when this is occurring. Often, the patients partner will be the first to notice the episodes of shallow breathing, complete cessation, or gasping/choking for air while asleep. A sleep apnea patient may experience a range of symptoms including; severe daytime drowsiness and fatigue, impaired memory, symptoms of depression, and even decreased libido. If you have any of these signs/symptoms, a formal sleep study will be undertaken to evaluate the severity of the disease.
In some cases, snoring can indicate upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS). Unlike sleep apnea, people with UARS do not stop breathing at any point or have decreased blood oxygenation. What they experience is a decreased airflow when breathing in. The airway narrows and breathing becomes more difficult. People with UARS share some of the same symptoms as those with OSA, yet will test negative with sleep testing.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are uniquely qualified to recognize the difference between OSA from other types of airway resistance problems. At your first visit, the doctors will begin with a detailed medical history and assess the anatomic relationship between your upper and lower jaws. A digital scan will be necessary to ascertain the degree and level of obstruction. Sometimes, underdeveloped maxillofacial bones maybe the culprit and will determine the type of surgical treatment necessary. Occasionally, adjunctive diagnostic tool such as a flexible fiber-optic camera may be used to better evaluate the nasal and posterior pharynx. Finally, to confirm the amount of cardiovascular compromise and decreased oxygenation levels, a sleep study may be recommended to monitor an individual overnight.
Your treatment will depend on the extent of your symptoms. In mild to moderate cases, conservative approaches are used first. Patients who do not respond to these methods may be fitted for an oral appliance, given a pressurized airflow mask, or otherwise advised to undergo surgery to open up the airway.
You may be able to avoid more invasive treatments by finding ways of reducing the severity of your symptoms. Some patients find it beneficial to sleep with their heads propped up, whereas others find relief by sleeping with a tennis ball under their backs. Talk with your Los Alamitos dentist about the options available to you and ways that you can contribute to the management of your condition.