Healthy Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS – This column was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, April 19, 2018
Did you know that habitual snoring has been found in about 24% of adult women and 40% of adult men? Chances are, if you snore regularly, then your spouse or family has let you know about your noisy habit. But even more importantly, if snoring has affected your quality of life, or your spouse’s quality of life, then there are critical health discussions to be had.
While many people realize that snoring affects their ability to get a quality night’s sleep, most don’t know it could signal other serious health problems. Let’s address them!
A misconception is that when you snore, you’re deep asleep. Snoring can simply be a sign that the airway is partially blocked, but loud and frequent snoring can indicate the presence of obstructive sleep apnea. At least 12 to 18 million U.S. adults are affected by this condition, which causes breathing to suddenly stop during sleep, from 10 seconds to more than a minute, in some cases. The snoring noise is caused by passing air through a narrow collapsible airway; snoring is created by the vibration of the pharyngeal soft tissues (tongue, uvula and back of throat).
Numerous studies have shown that, if left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a potentially life-threatening condition that can increase the risk for serious health problems from congestive heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease to diabetes, obesity and depression.
Sleep is an issue for many Americans. An estimated one in every 25 adult drivers report having fallen asleep while driving in any given 30-day period. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes; 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths in 2013. Sleep apnea may play a role in a portion of these numbers.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for snoring and sleep apnea. If your snoring can wake sleepers down the hall, or if you suspect it is impacting your overall health, take these steps:
- See your primary care physician and get a sleep test. This will determine if your snoring is indicative of a more severe problem, such as obstructive sleep apnea, and will help you plot your treatment course. My dental practice, along with others, helps patients get screened for, diagnosed and treated for OSA in conjunction with a board-certified sleep physician as well as your primary care physician. In my practice, we offer a home sleeping test unit which will test you for OSA.
- Consider a range of treatments. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, is the recommended treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP includes a face mask that must be worn during sleep, as well as tubing and a constantly running motor. For patients who cannot tolerate CPAP or choose not to use that treatment, oral appliance therapy may be the next treatment of choice. Provided by select dentists like myself, who have a dental sleep medicine practice, this treatment uses a custom-fit device to keep the airway open by advancing the mandible forward. The oral appliance keeps the patient’s airway open and provides a healthy night’s sleep.
- Stick to your treatment plan. Symptoms and quality of life can improve dramatically for patients who remain committed to their treatment and abide by it nightly. Choose a treatment you can sleep with, to put yourself on the road to more restful nights and healthier days.
Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles, a cosmetic and family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg. She is an Accreditation Candidate of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and a member of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow Gettysburg Smiles on Facebook, or call 717-339-0033.