Snoring Treatment | Snoring Procedures
People snore because of different reasons and as such, treatment can range from simple to complicated procedures. Sometimes, snoring treatment can be as simple as doing throat exercises, losing weight, shifting sleeping positions and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Yet there may still be some cases when the underlying problem needs medical and/or dental intervention. In more serious cases, snoring may be just the tip of the iceberg and is only a symptom of a bigger, sometimes life-threatening medical condition. The best way to know which case is which is to go to a specialist and ‘know thy enemy’. When the cause of snoring is correctly diagnosed, then snoring treatment may commence. Here are some possible medical/dental approaches to snoring:
Use of oral appliances
Oral appliances are best used on patients whose tongue collapse at the back of their throat while they sleep. Although mere shifting to a side facing sleep position can sometimes suffice, this may not be a viable option for people with back problems. A more definitive snoring treatment for these people is using dental appliances. Tongue retraining devices and gum shields can be used to keep the tongue from blocking the airway by keeping it forward.
Sometimes, a narrow palate can cause breathing difficulties that can contribute to snoring. People with a corrected cleft palate can also sometimes exhibit narrowed upper jaw. An orthodontist (a specialist on straightening teeth) can employ non-surgical methods to expand the palate by using screws that when tightened on regular intervals, can help widen the upper jaw and palate. Widened palates are known to relieve pressure in the nose and improved breathing pattern.
Dentists can also offer more conservative, non-surgical ways to address mild to moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with loud and regular snoring. It is a serious and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that can cause pauses in breathing while asleep. This can lead to hypoxemia or decreased oxygen levels in the blood and eventually, death. Obstructive sleep apnea happens because airway is blocked by the soft tissues lining the airway.
A dentist can manage this without surgery by using splints that keep the lower jaw forward to keep soft tissues from collapsing into the airway. These appliances commonly look like mouth guards used by athletes and they are generally preferred over CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines that can be bulky and complicated to use. Regular dental visits and maintaining strict oral hygiene must be observed to prevent tooth decay when using oral appliances.
Snoring Treatment – Surgical approach
Severe and life-threatening cases of snoring can be addressed surgically. It should be noted, however, that sometimes, even surgical procedures do not guarantee a cure for snoring. Surgical snoring treatment involves widening the throat area by removing excess soft tissues in the back of the throat or removal of anatomical aberrations that can cause airway obstructions. Removal of excess flappy tissues along the airway is commonly accomplished through a procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty.
The downside of this is the long recovery period. The use of laser technology in surgeries like this is very promising as theoretically, the procedure as well as the healing phase can be greatly simplified, however, most specialists are not convinced hence, further studies are still needed. Electric currents are also claimed to be effective in making the throat soft tissues stiffer and less likely to vibrate. Compared to laser-assisted surgery and conventional surgery, this procedure has the least amount of discomfort and shortest recovery period although much research is still needed to establish its long-term effectivity.
Other surgical procedures involve removal of enlarged adenoids and tonsils as well as nasal polyps. In case of deviations of the nasal septum (the bone that separates the two nostrils) reconstruction is done and repair is done during a procedure called nasal septoplasty.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines
CPAP machines keep the airway patent by providing a steady flow of air through the use of a mask worn by the patient during sleep. The problem with CPAPs is its potential for restricting sleeping positions because of the mask and hose from the machine as well as the unnatural feeling of wearing a mask that covers the mouth and the nose while sleeping. Some people also think that the use of a CPAP machine is a definitive snoring treatment and that proper diagnosis from a specialist is not needed once a CPAP machine is used. This can lead to more severe apnea bouts later on in life.