Snoring Prevention & Sleep Apnea

Snoring a little or only on occasion is a very common problem for many people. In fact, it is estimated that more than 80 million people in North America snore while sleeping. While this can only be a minor nuisance for some, it can also be a sign of other major health complications such as a chronic snoring problem or obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring can impact not only your own quality of sleep but also the sleep of your loved ones. Thankfully, at Earwood Dentistry, we have the tools and expertise to help treat chronic snoring and sleep apnea.


What Causes Snoring?

Snoring can be the result of a variety of factors, from biology and genetics to lifestyle choices. Typically, snoring is caused by the soft tissues in your throat and mouth that become overly relaxed, partially blocking the airway. This decreases the amount of space for air to pass through unobstructed. Because of this, when you breathe in your sleep, the air moves over these soft tissues, causing a vibration that creates the sound we refer to as snoring.

Some individuals naturally have these more relaxed tissues or are predisposed to snoring due to their face shape or status as a biological male or post-menopausal female, but other factors can also increase your risk of snoring, in the short and long term. These causes include:

  • Excess body weight

  • Alcohol consumption, especially before sleep

  • Certain sleep aides or sedatives

  • Allergies or the Common cold

  • Sleeping on your back

  • Smoking

  • Age

  • Hormonal balances

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

As mentioned above, snoring occurs when the soft tissues in your throat relax and partially obstruct your flow of air as you sleep, causing the vibrations that result in snoring. In these cases, while your breathing may be somewhat labored due to the reduced space in your airway, the air is still passing through.

This is not the case with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, also known as OSA. When a patient has OSA, the soft tissues repeatedly close the airway fully, causing you to stop breathing and depriving your body of oxygen until your body forces itself to gasp awake.

Snoring and sleep apnea are so closely related because loud, chronic snoring is one of the most telling symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. Not everyone who is experiencing a chronic snoring problem has sleep apnea, however, they do share many of the same risk factors and symptoms. At Earwood Dentistry, we will work with you to determine whether your snoring problem is a sign of a deeper issue and refer you to a sleep doctor if necessary, as well as to create a treatment plan and provide you with a mandibular advancement device if needed.

Mandibular Advancement Devices

If you snore at night, a mandibular advancement device, or MAD, may offer you a solution that helps you get a restful night’s sleep. MADs are designed specifically to help gently keep your lower jaw, also known as the mandible, in its proper forward position, increasing the space of your airway passage and helping you breathe better through the night.

For some, the placement of your tongue can also impact your chances of snoring. In these cases, our dentists may recommend other specialized devices that stop your tongue from falling back over your windpipe. At your consultation, your dentist will determine which of these appliances is right for your individual needs.

A device that affects the placement of your jaw and tongue may sound uncomfortable, but thankfully, mandibular advancement devices are built for comfort, helping you to sleep without even noticing you’re wearing it. It does not prevent you from breathing normally with your mouth open, and it can even help those patients experiencing snoring as a result of allergies or sinus congestion.

Some patients experience a slight stiffness in their jaw for the first few mornings after they start treatment with a MAD. However, this feeling is only temporary as your mouth and jaw get used to this new sleeping position and will go away promptly after you wake up and remove the device.

CPAP vs. MAD for Sleep Apnea

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are the most common sleep apnea treatment. CPAP treatment uses a mask placed over the face and attached to a machine that creates air pressure in the throat, opening the airway. CPAP is highly effective at preventing breathing disruption but many patients refuse to use the machine or use it irregularly even when a doctor tells them it’s necessary. Both CPAP and MAD are proven to reduce snoring and sleep apnea.

The National Institutes of Health reports that MADs are proving to be equally or more effective than CPAPs because they are more likely to be used. The NIH also reports that MADs do more to boost patients’ overall quality of life. They are smaller, less invasive and easier to use than a CPAP, making them more convenient and patient-friendly than a machine. MADs are used 76-98% of the time for about 6.5 hours per night compared to CPAP that is used only 30-80% of the time for about 4 hours per night.

CPAP Side-Effects And Drawbacks NOT Experienced By MAD

  • Air pressure is uncomfortable in the back of the throat
  • Noise made by the machine is disruptive to sleep
  • Feelings of confinement from the face mask
  • Sore or dry mouth
  • Nasal congestion, runny nose, sinusitis, or nosebleeds
  • Irritation and sores over the bridge of the nose
  • Stomach bloating and discomfort
  • Discomfort in chest muscles

Patients Likely To Gain The Most Benefit From MADs Include:

  • Sufferers of mild-to-moderate sleep apnea
  • Young people
  • People with sleep apnea that improves when sleeping on their side
  • Females
  • People with a receding jaw structure (retrognathic mandible)
  • CPAP wearers still suffering even with CPAP use
  • Those who will not use CPAP as prescribed


To consult with our dentists regarding a snoring problem or potential sleep apnea, call our office at (919) 847-8413 or schedule an appointment online.

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