As a highly common ailment, affecting nearly half of the population, snoring can heavily impact a person's life. Not only can it lead to a number of side effects for both sufferer and bed partner, it can also be a symptom of something more sinister - obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) - a potentially life-threatening condition.
Thankfully, once correctly diagnosed, there are several treatment options available to patients. Before discussing these, it is first important to understand what snoring and OSA are - and their causes.
Snoring: simple snoring is the noise resulting from a partial closure of the airway during sleep. As we fall asleep, our muscles relax. For snorers, this causes the lower jaw to drop back and partially obstruct the airway.
The reduced airflow then leads to the soft tissues in the throat vibrating, causing the snoring sound. Left untreated, snoring can result in: diminished energy, reduced libido, lack of concentration, and increased risk of stress.
OSA: Less often, snoring can take place as part of a more serious condition - OSA. This is the medical term for the repeated collapsing of the airway during sleep, resulting in complete (apnoea) obstruction of airflow for 10 seconds or more. Simply put, a person suffering from OSA will stop breathing for periods of time during sleep.
Sufferers can be categorised as mild, moderate and severe, depending on the incidence of apnoeic episodes per night. Consequences if left untreated include: increased blood pressure, heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes, and extreme daytime sleepiness. Crucially, those suffering from OSA are often unaware that they stop breathing for periods of time.
It is not uncommon for those suffering from snoring to consult their GP for advice. This typically leads to suggested lifestyle changes, including: weight loss, different sleeping positions, staying well hydrated and avoiding alcohol. Whilst these are important and will likely have a positive impact on snoring, they are unlikely to completely eradicate the problem - especially in the case of OSA.
Many people are unaware that dentists play a crucial role in the diagnosis and treatment of snoring & OSA and can provide a number of dental appliances to combat the problem, known as a mandibular advancement splint (MAS). Such appliances are designed to prevent the lower jaw from dropping back during relaxation (sleep), in turn keeping the airway open and oxygen saturation high.
The use of MAS has been clinically proven to have a significant impact on snoring, with many dentists throughout the UK being trained to provide these appliances to reduce snoring. As part of the screening process, your dentist will ask you to complete a short questionnaire that assesses the quality of your sleep, as well as your level of tiredness in certain scenarios. There is also a section for your bed partner, if you have one, to complete. The results will be used to rule out OSA by determining your risk level. If you are suspected of suffering from OSA, your dentist should refer you on to your GP for further investigation - a non-invasive sleep study, which will accurately measure your sleeping patterns and oxygen saturation levels.
Where can I find dentists offering treatment?
To take the effort out of searching for a dentist offering MAS treatment, you can use our handy Find a Provider search tool - located here. Ensure that the Sleepwell box is selected (removing other selections), enter your postcode, and discover available clinics nearby. You can then book an initial consultation with a trained dentist. If your dentist pushed you to read this article - speak with them, they will likely have an interest themselves, or, if not, an understanding of who locally can provide such treatment for you.