Snoring is a major symptom of a serious medical condition called ‘obstructive sleep apnoea’ (OSA). Whilst not all snorers have OSA, virtually all those with apnoea snore! During sleep, the pharyngeal airway (throat) narrows due to a reduction in muscle tone while asleep. Snoring is then simply a vibratory noise generated in general by the soft tissues of the back of the relaxed tongue, pharynx and/or soft palate. Further narrowing produces not only louder snoring, but also causes a partial collapse of the upper airway resulting in laboured inspiration (breathing in). Finally, further narrowing might result in a complete collapse of the upper airway, causing complete airflow obstruction known as obstructive sleep apnoea.
Dental Sleep Medicine Treatment
There is good evidence that custom made intra-oral appliances, so called mandibular repositioning devices (MRA) but also known as mandibular advancement devices (MAD) or mandibular advancement splints (MAS), worn in the mouth on the teeth arches at night can greatly help reduce snoring and even treat obstructive sleep apnea. They work by holding the lower jaw and tongue forward during sleep. The narrowing of the airway behind the tongue is prevented thus reducing the likelihood of snoring and even apnoeic episodes.
These appliances impose significant forces to the teeth and jaw joints and the dentist has to be make sure that these structures are sound and able to withstand these forces. Side effects of treatment may include excess salivation as well as sometimes a dry mouth, jaw joint ache and tooth sensitivity. These are generally short-term side effects and gradually disappear once you with time. Evidence of long-term side effects include tooth movements as well as bite changes. These relatively mild side effects must be balanced against the benefits of treatment, especially in the case of severe OSA. Most patients do not find these side effects sufficiently intrusive to discontinue treatment.
Modern, custom-made appliances are sophisticated and comfortable to wear, but you should seek professional advise from a specialised dentist.