Snoring – just Annoying or also Dangerous?

Snoring - annoying

Everyone knows how annoying snoring can be, especially for the partner sleeping next to you. But is it just an annoyance or is it more than that? Research shows that snoring could be the first step towards sleep apnea (Obstructive Sleep Apnea – OSA) and…. this is dangerous, possibly life-threatening. Let’s go a bit into details to find out how these harsh sounds are generated.

Snoring is caused by a vibration of the soft tissues in the throat (Pharynx) consequent to the narrowing of air passages. Snoring can occur due to throat muscle weakness, fat deposits in and around the throat, malposition of the jaw (mandible), different medications, alcohol or drugs that cause muscle relaxation or obstruction in the air passageways. Besides the sound produced while sleeping, snoring also signifies a possible insufficient quantity of air reaching the lungs. For OSA patients this is even more significant since impaired breathing leads to systemic hypoxia with symptoms such as restless sleep, concentration problems during awake times, aggravated clenching and grinding. In addition, Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit also showed in a recent study that snorers exhibit changes in the tunica intima-media of the carotid arteries and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring.

Is there anything that can be done against snoring to prevent more serious systemic problems and also not bother our partner with those terrible noises?

Yes, in fact, there are a couple of remedies, surprisingly, some of them quite non-invasive and provided by a dentist:

  1. One of them is a dental appliance that is worn in the mouth overnight. It positions the jaw slightly forward allowing the throat to stay open more and the air to freely pass through. It is important to mention here that “do-it-yourself” devices found in the stores can cause malposition of the jaw, which can negatively affect the joints. It is recommended that all anti-snoring appliances be fabricated specifically for each patient and adjusted by a dentist who is familiar with the OSA dental appliances. When a narrowing of the nasal passageways causes snoring, a special nose clip could also work well.
  2. Laser-assisted uvula-palato-plasty (LAUP) is a more invasive procedure where the vibrating soft tissue (uvula) in the throat is removed. This is a surgical procedure used when dental appliances do not work anymore.
  3. A sleep mask (CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), which could be a bit cumbersome to wear but for severe OSA patients can be life-saving.

Out of these treatment options, the easiest and least intrusive method to start with would be the custom-fabricated overnight appliance. It is scientifically proven to work in a non-invasive way and is quite predictable in results. Therefore, at your next check-up appointment, tell your dentist if you are snoring. It might now be just about the noise…

Costin Marinescu
Dr.-medic stom., D.D.S. (USA)