Sleep Apnea FAQs

from the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine

Most people who are interested in snoring and obstructive sleep apnea are not very knowledgeable about either of them.  The following information can give you a brief overview about snoring and sleep apnea.

Q.  Is snoring normal?
A.  Most people snore to some degree.  Generally speaking it is quite normal.  If snoring gets to the point where it becomes extremely loud and bothersome to others, then this degree of snoring is not considered normal.

Q.  Do women snore more than men?
A.  Snoring is less prominent in women but much more prominent in men.

Q.  What causes snoring?
A.  Snoring is most often caused by loose, weak, or excessive tissue at the back of the throat which collapses into the airway during sleep.  This tissue flutter or vibrates as air is breathed in.  This fluttering tissue, like a flag flapping in the strong breeze, is the cause of the aggravation noise we know as snoring.

Q.  Why does snoring occur during sleep?
A.  During sleep the tissues that cause snoring tend to relax.  The deeper we fall asleep, the more relaxed these tissues become.  These relaxed tissues will begin to cover the airway and thus the snoring sound begins.  This is why we usually do not hear ourselves snore.  By the time we start to snore we are in a deep enough sleep not to hear the noise.

Q.  Why do some people snore more loudly than others?
A.  Some people are born with the characteristics that lend themselves to be snorers.  These characteristics are body structure and the anatomy of the mouth and surrounding structures.  Outside factors such as Body Mass, medications and alcohol can also make snoring worse.

Q.  What about the people who really rattle the house?
A.  Snoring can be a “fire alarm” for more serious problems than just keeping others awake.  Snoring can signal the existence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Q.  Why does alcohol make you snore louder?
A.  Alcohol relaxes the tissue in the back of the throat.  Since it will now collapse into the airway and vibrate easier, the snoring sound will be easier to make and therefore louder.

Q.  Is it up to everyone else to tolerate the loud snoring?
A.  Quite frequently someone who snores loudly does not realize or believe that they do.  Even when an irate partner complains about it, the snorer may still deny it.  This is actually typical of problem snorers.  It should be understood that because it is done uncontrollably, snorers are not at fault for their snoring.  It should also be understood by snorers, that they may indeed be creating problems for others, whether they care to admit it or not.

Q.  My spouse literally STOPS BREATHING, it SCARES me to death!  Is this normal?
A.  NO THIS IS NOT NORMAL.  It is a symptom of a far more serious problem called obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Q.  What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
A.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition where the airway becomes covered, usually by the tongue, due to abnormal muscle relaxation of the tongue and surrounding muscles in the throat area.  With the airway covered a person does not breathe.  Since no breathing is taking place, one’s oxygen level in the body drops and their heart rate increases.  This lowered oxygen level is dangerous because it can cause a stroke or heart attack.  The higher heart rate is dangerous because it can aggravate high blood pressure.  In an attempt to breathe, a person either awakens or partially awakens gasping breath.  Since an individual is always awakening to catch their breath, they never get the deep, restful sleep needed by the body.  This often leads to excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).

Q.  Is OSA dangerous?
A.  YES!  Sleep apnea has been linked to heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, personality changes, impotence, depression, etc.  The main symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).  Statistics show that many traffic accidents are due to driver fatigue.  So, not only can we hurt ourselves, we can also inadvertently injure others.

Q.  Do dental devices really work in treating snoring and apnea?
A.  YES!  Research has shown that oral appliance therapy is very effective for snoring, mild and moderate sleep apnea, and sometimes severe sleep apnea.  This therapy is also very effective for people that have had surgery and the surgery was not successful.

Q.  Are there many dentists trained in this form of treatment?
A.  NO.  Before selecting a dentist to treat you with an oral appliance, be sure that the dentist has the experience, knowledge, and education necessary to treat your problem.  Always feel free to question your doctor about his/her credentials and all treatment options.  Ask if your dentist is a member of the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.  Is the dentist credentialed by this organization?  The Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine is an international organization of dentists, physicians, and researchers that has the sole purpose to educate and train doctors in the use of oral appliances to treat sleep disordered breathing.  This organization also supports research in the field of oral appliance therapy.  All dentists serious about the use of oral appliances to treat snoring or sleep apnea should be a member and credentialed by the Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.  Be careful of the dentist who has done a few cases and does not have the full commitment to treat this dangerous medical condition on a full-time basis.

Q.  If I wear an oral appliance to treat my snoring or apnea, how will this affect my jaw joint?
A.  Research and clinical data show that there is rarely adverse effects on the jaw joint.  This is not to say that, in rare cases, jaw problems cannot occur.  A certain percentage of patients will have tooth or jaw movement.  This is a small inconvenience in comparison to the dangers of sleep apnea.

Read about Sleep Apnea Treatment