If you or someone in your family snores loudly during naps or nighttime sleep, this is probably getting old. Snoring this loudly keeps other family members awake. Worse, it can interfere with the sleep of the person doing the snoring. And with how little time there is to get sleep thanks to our busy lives, using that time effectively is very important.

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We treat sleep apnea a couple of different ways. If somebody's very severe, we refer them to a sleep clinic where they will fit them with a CPAP. If somebody cannot tolerate a CPAP or if they are mild to moderate as far as where sleep apnea is concerned, then we can treat them with an oral appliance.

The basic premise of the oral appliance is that it allows us to reposition the lower jaw slightly forward so that we create a more open airway for the patient. When they're asleep, their tongue doesn't fall back and obstruct the airway and, basically, it allows them to be able to breathe better and it allows the oxygen intake and the oxygen to the brain to stay within the realms that we need to.

We've had patients, for example, that came in and told me that they sleep two or three hours at the most during the night because they're fidgety, they're agitated, they wake up a lot, they have to go to the bathroom and urinate a lot. These are all little signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. By providing an appliance for them that takes care of that, they're actually sleeping through the night.

I had a patient that hadn't slept in the same bed with his wife for 15 to 20 years and, after making him an appliance, it was amazing. He came in two weeks later for us to do a follow-up and he looked alert. His face was more relaxed and I'm asking him questions about it and he goes, “Yeah, I never realized that I wasn't sleeping well and now I'm sleeping six hours during the night and my wife's sleeping in the same bed with me.” That is a huge, huge thing for patients.

But snoring isn’t about teeth, so what can a dentist do? A lot, actually — if they have the right training and technology. Most dentists in the Rogue Valley area do not help patients with bad snoring or sleep apnea. But Dr. Vareldzis and his dental team are trained to help health issues involving the whole mouth. Since snoring comes from the mouth, this is exactly what our Medford, OR office can help you with.

When Does Snoring Become A Problem?

No one is perfectly quiet while they sleep. Regardless of how deeply you sleep, you will make some noise when breathing. That’s normal. What’s not normal is when you snore loudly most or all of the time. You can disrupt your sleep, nevermind the sleep of anyone who can hear you.

If you occasionally snore, that’s usually not a problem. But if you or your family teases you for how loud and how often you snore during the night, then you should make an appointment to make sure you do not have sleep apnea.

What Does Sleep Apnea Mean?

When you fall asleep, your muscles relax. But people who suffer from sleep apnea get a little too relaxed. If the muscles in the back of the throat become over-relaxed, they don’t properly support the soft palate, tonsils, and side walls of the throat. These all start to sag, which closes off your windpipe. Your body thinks it’s suffocating, so you suddenly start gasping for air. But because your airway quickly returns to its normal state, you fix the problem so fast that you don’t fully wake up. If this were to happen a few times during the night, it’s usually no problem. But sleep apnea can cause this to happen 30 or more times each hour. That means you could be waking up at least 240 times in the standard eight hours of sleep!

What Happens If You Ignore Sleep Apnea?

A lot of people think snoring is just a fact of life. Some people don’t snore, and some people do, so there’s nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, sleep apnea can interfere with your ability to keep the right amount of oxygen in your blood. It makes sense — if you’re not always breathing right, you’re not getting enough air. This missing oxygen can lead to a bunch of problems, such as headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, fibromyalgia, and more. Because you’re constantly waking up repeatedly, you’re also not getting a good night’s rest. That means you’re more susceptible to weight gain, insomnia, depression, hormone imbalances, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Even if you’re not suffering, the people in your family who can’t sleep because of your snoring might be.

How Can A Dentist Help?

The first thing we can do is help determine if your snoring really is sleep apnea. Many doctors require you to spend the night in a hospital for a sleep study, but Dr. Vareldzis can give you a machine to take home so you can do the study right in your own bed. You want to recreate your normal nighttime routine, so it only makes sense to conduct the study in your house. Once Dr. Vareldzis has reviewed the data from that machine, he can offer two treatment plans.

The CPAP machine is the usual solution for sleep apnea. This is a sleep apnea machine that uses a mask to keep positive pressure in your throat. While this isn’t strong enough to feel, it keeps the throat muscles from relaxing too much. This ends the constant waking-gasping-falling-back-to-sleep cycle that causes such problems. Some patients can get by with a customized mouthpiece, smaller but similar to a retainer, that moves your jaw forward just enough to find a “sweet spot” that keeps your throat open.

Snoring isn’t just annoying. It can lead to all kinds of health problems. Thankfully, Hillcrest Family Dentistry is one of the few dentists in Rogue Valley to both screen and treat sleep apnea. Call us today at 541-779-4196 or 541-773-4435 or use our convenient online form to schedule your next appointment.

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