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Consider a Medical Approach to Treat Snoring

MySleepTest.com's Network of Sleep Dentists Can Help!

You may be one of the lucky few that obtain relief through a $29 mouth-piece but for most snorers, real relief comes only after receiving a thorough analysis of your condition and implementing a custom treatment program developed by experienced, sleep and snore medical professionals.

The first step you need to take is to be screened for a Sleep Disruptive Breathing condition, our Online Screening Test, provides an indication of your risk level. If your results indicate you are at risk, your personalized sleep report will provide you a list of local dentists specializing in sleep apnea and sleep disruptive breathing dentistry.

At which point you can make an appointment for a no obligation consultation and if there is cause to proceed consider undergoing an overnight sleep study which will measure the severity of your snoring and definitely diagnose Sleep Apnea (note: insurance plans typically only pay for sleep studies to diagnose “sleep apnea”). After completing the study, our experienced board certified sleep physician will provide our network of sleep dentists the necessary data to work with you to design an effective and tolerable treatment plan that can provide immediate and lasting relief.

To understand how snoring can be effectively treated, you must first know what causes it.

 

The Snoring Epidemic

About one half of American adults snore. And over 35 million of them snore on a regular basis – meaning tens of millions of people are suffering every night with the noise and subsequent negative effects of receiving disruptive, poor-quality sleep. It’s likely you know someone -- a roommate, a friend, family member, yourself or spouse that should realize that snoring is more than just a social issue. That it could be a sign of a serious medical condition called sleep apnea.

As unfortunately you may be all too aware snoring affects more than just the sufferer. It often places a tremendous strain on relationships and marriages. The spouse or bed partner of a snorer usually suffers night after night, receiving poor quality sleep which can lead to reduced daytime functioning and strained relationships. However, there is help for those who suffer with the condition or have been forced to deal with awkward and uncomfortable therapy.

 

Why Are We Different?

For the first time, groups of trained medical professionals from different disciplines have been brought together to effectively treat snoring.

The treatment of snoring has not previously been deemed a serious medical problem because it was considered a "social" disease. We now know that it can be a potentially devastating condition for both the snorer and the bed partner. Rest assured that the doctors at MySleepTest.com understand the seriousness of this problem. Please take a few minutes to learn more about your condition.

 

What Causes Snoring? - Normal Breathing

When you breath normally, air passes through the nose and past the flexible structures in the back of the throat (the soft palate, uvula, and tongue). While you are awake the muscles hold the airway open. When you fall asleep, these muscles relax, but usually, the airway stays open.

 

Obstructed Breathing / Snoring

Airway blockage is the root cause of all snoring problems. The “sound” of snoring comes from the uvula, the back of the tongue and other soft tissues of the throat “flap” as air passes over them during sleep. It's very much like the sound a flag makes when it waves in the wind. This can happen even when the tissues are normal size because when you fall asleep the muscles in the throat, soft palate and uvula relax.

Snoring worsens when the muscles in the back of the throat are too relaxed, either from sleep-aiding drugs, muscle relaxers or alcohol consumption, therefore blocking the airway.

 

Snoring can also be caused by:

  • A large uvula and soft palate
  • Nasal congestion
  • A deviated septum (misalignment of the central structure of the nose)
  • Or other obstructions in the nasal and pharyngeal (throat) airways
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Large tonsils
  • Adenoids
  • Small or retruded jaw (especially in children)
  • Narrowing of airway during pregnancy.

 

Issues Associated With Snoring

Snoring is a serious problem both socially and medically. It often disrupts marriages and causes countless sleepless nights for bed partners resulting in a loss of connection between spouses.

Medically, snoring can be the precursor of obstructive sleep apnea, which has been linked to heart failure, high blood pressure, and stroke. In fact, a new study has shown that loud snoring itself can have devastating consequences. An article published in March, 2008 stated that loud snorers had 40% greater odds of having hypertension, 34% greater odds of having a heart attack and 67% greater odds of having a stroke than people who did not snore.

 

Medically, snoring has been linked to/associated with:

  • Repeated deprivation of oxygen to the brain – this can cause high blood pressure which can damage the carotid arteries on each side of the neck. The carotid arteries carry oxygen to the brain. The damage can lead to the development of cholesterol and calcium containing plaque which further restricts blood flow to the brain and can increase the risk of a stroke.
  • A report from the University of California School of Dentistry found that 21% of men who snore had hardened blockages in their carotid arteries.
  • In its own right, snoring has been linked to the increase of Type II Diabetes
  • In children, snoring is associated with an increased rate of attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Note: If your child snores, speak to your pediatrician about the problem. Nose and throat problems as well as obesity may be the cause. Treating these conditions may help your child sleep better and keep your child's mental and physical development on track.

 

The negative effect snoring has on your partner can be just as serious:

  • Living with a snorer can strain even the most dedicated relationship, which may lead to dissension and in some case, divorce.
  • If you are kept awake night after night by a bed partner's snoring, you are not getting the sleep you need. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, muddled thinking, illness, poor performance at work and drowsy driving.
  • When a spouse is disturbed by snoring often times, they will move to a separate bedroom. A recent study concluded that over 75% of snoring couples slept apart
  • The effect of the noise on a sleeping partner of a snorer can raise blood pressure in direct relation to the intensity of the noise. High blood pressure is a known risk factor for stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and dementia.
  • Recent studies show that a snorer's bed partner on average may lose the equivalent of 2 hours of sleep every night.

 

Treatment Options

Snoring is serious. However, there are a number of treatment options – including simple lifestyle changes that may provide immediate relief, while other intricate options have been proven to provide long-term relief. Most chronic snorers will be required to seek medical assistance in order to find a treatment plan which provides long-term relief and drastically reduces their snoring and mild to moderate OSA. Some of these procedures are simple, minimally invasive approaches while others may require surgery and/or a lifetime commitment and lifestyle sacrifices.

 

Mandibular Repositioning Dental Appliances (MRA)

MRA's are oral appliances that treat snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. They are small plastic devices, worn in the mouth, similar to orthodonic retainers or sports mouth- guards. MRA's are worn during sleep to prevent the collapse of the tongue and soft tissues in the back of the throat so that the airway remains open during sleep. The appliances promote adequate air intake and help to provide normal sleep in people who snore.

 

MRA's work in several ways:

  • By repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula
  • By stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue
  • By increasing the muscle tone of the tongue

Oral appliance therapy involves the selection, design, fitting and use of a specially designed oral appliance that, when worn during sleep, maintains an opened, unobstructed airway in the throat. Appliances are typically used to treat mild-to-moderate OSA and are the primary treatment method for snoring.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has concluded that a custom made mandibular repositioning appliance is a first line of treatment for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea.

 

MRA's Covered By Insurance, Provide Convenient, Effective Therapy

In certain cases oral appliance therapy may be covered by insurance (especially when CPAP therapy has failed). A patient should contact a MySleepTest.com to find a local dentist who is specially trained and experienced in sleep dentistry and treating snoring. These physicians will identify the most effective course of treatment for your situation and work with you to find the best therapeutic approach. Even for those people who are uninsured MRA therapy can be very affordable, with comprehensive treatment and on-going appliance fitting costing as little as $650 to $2800.

The good news is oral appliance therapy requires minor lifestyle adjustment and usually is easily tolerated by patients. Additionally, patients usually begin to see improvement in airflow (reduction in snore volume) immediately. Oral appliances may be used in conjunction with other therapies depending on severity of the snoring/OSA.

 

CPAP Therapy

The traditional way to treat sleep apnea and alleviate snoring is with a device called a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive air pressure and is usually applied through a tube to a mask that covers the mouth or nose. The air pressure that is generated splints the structures in the back of the throat, holding the airway open during sleep.

CPAP therapy for OSA requires the patient to complete an overnight sleep study to be diagnosed for OSA and determine its severity. If the patient is diagnosed with OSA, CPAP therapy is typically covered by insurance. Depending upon a person's coverage and co-pay the therapy usually costs between $350 - $500 for the CPAP, mask and supplies plus an additional $200 - $500 for an in-lab sleep study or $100 - $200 for a home sleep study.

 

The Pillar® Procedure

Is a minimally invasive treatment for snoring and mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea originating from the soft palate. This procedure is office-based, requiring only a local anesthetic. During the Pillar Procedure, tiny implants are placed into the muscle of the soft palate and are designed to reduce the palate's tendency to flutter during sleep and or block the airway.

The Pillar Procedure takes about fifteen minutes to perform and is associated with minimal discomfort, allowing patients to return to work the same or following day. In certain cases the Pillar Procedure may be covered by insurance, otherwise it usually is performed in a physician's or dentist’s office and costs about $2000. Unlike other procedures and treatment options Pillar does not require any lifestyle adjustments and the patient often begins to see improvement in the days and weeks following the procedure.

 

 

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)

Another surgical technique called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) removes excess tissue at the back of the throat. This procedure is designed to allow air to move through the throat more easily when you breathe, reducing snoring. The tissues removed may include:

  • The small finger-shaped piece of tissue (uvula) that hangs down from the back of the roof of the mouth into the throat.
  • Part of the roof of the mouth (soft palate).
  • Excess throat tissue, tonsils and adenoids, and the pharynx.

The UPPP surgery takes about two hours and usually requires an overnight stay in the hospital. After discharge it typically takes about 2-4 weeks to fully recover from surgery. It may be very difficult to swallow during this time. Because of this, many patients have stated that they wouldn’t undergo it again. UPPP may be covered by insurance if patient has previously failed alternate sleep apnea therapy.

 

Lifestyle Changes

These lifestyle changes provide snorers a number of simple steps that they can take today to prevent (or at least lessen) the severity of their snoring – they include:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight is the most likely cause of your snoring.
  • Sleep on your side, not on your back. Try sewing a tennis ball on the back of a t-shirt, it will remind you to not sleep on your back.
  • See a physician if you have chronic nasal congestion or obstruction.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before you go to bed -- alcohol and sedatives can relax the muscles in the back of the throat and lead to snoring. Additionally you suffer apneas, they can increase the length of each event by dulling your brain's activity that signals you to awaken and restart breathing.

 

Insurance Information

Most insurance plans do not cover treatment for snoring or sleep disturbed breathing without a patient first being diagnosed with sleep apnea. The first step for a patient interested in exploring treatment options for their snoring is to be screened for sleep apnea. Once a patient is screened a doctor may prescribe an overnight sleep study. The study can be completed in a sleep lab, hospital or now the patient may elect to have one done in their home. The results of the sleep study are reviewed by a board certified pulmonologist who is trained to diagnose and treat sleep apnea and other sleep related conditions.

Please take a few minutes to take our on-line Screening Test or if you prefer you can email your questions to Dr. John Herald, our Associate Medical Director and National Snoring Specialist.