Snoring is seen as a joke, but it can pose serious health risks!

I was just talking to a long-time patient about the radio ads I do on Majic 100, and I mentioned that the ones that truly bring the most response are those about treating snoring.  His head perked up…he said “my wife would like to know about that, I think!” So snoring is quite annoying to family members, spouses for sure, but more than annoying it can be a health risk.  There have been studies about sleep quality in snorers and long-term health of snorers, but also in the non-snoring bed partner (we sort-of jokingly call it Secondary Sleep Apnea).  Sometimes snoring is even so bad that the couple sleep apart! Not good.

Snoring happens because something along the airway is not working properly.  There can be so many causes for this…allergies, deviated nasal septum, excess nasal tissue, tonsils, adenoids, small airway space…the list goes on.  Some of these issues are correctable, usually with surgery (and the surgery can be relatively easy and predictable or difficult and not predictable). Some are not easy to correct, but regardless an ENT (ear nose and throat specialist) can usually determine the “why.” Russ’s medical doctor would refer him to an ENT, and likely he would wait about 6 months for an ENT consult. I do recommend he do this, if only to know the why.

Snoring typically worsens with time. The noise of the snoring is caused by vibration of some of the tissues along the airway.  Try to make snoring sounds yourself and you will feel the vibration. As it vibrates, the tissue inside gets swollen, which worsens the already-troubled airway, which makes the snoring louder with time.  Snoring can also be a precursor to sleep apnea, or be accompanied by sleep apnea. Sleep apnea (if you don’t know) means you stop breathing while you sleep. It’s pretty scary if you’ve ever seen anyone have an apneic event, and some bed partners lie awake watching their loved one over this fear. There are also significant long-term health risks for untreated sleep apnea patients which you can easily find online if you google Sleep Apnea. I recommended Russ have a sleep study done to diagnose or rule out sleep apnea.  The sleep study can be done in a sleep lab, usually a hospital, is covered by OHIP, and has to be referred by his medical doctor. He goes to sleep in the lab for one night and receives a report and diagnosis.  Patients typically hate the sleep lab…it’s not familiar, you are told when you have to go to sleep, if it’s in a hospital you can often still hear announcements over the loudspeakers. The other option is a home sleep test, which I can provide, it’s a device we fit him for in the office, then we program it for him to wear two consecutive nights at home. Either of you can then drop it off to the office, and the data is transmitted to a technician in Kanata who reads the data and reports to us. For patients of our practice, we charge $80 for this (which is “cost” for us…regular fee for patients coming to us just for sleep is $295).

My role in all of this is I can make a sleep appliance which holds the lower jaw a bit forward to open up the airway, like in CPR. It also opens the airway vertically, which alleviates for many patients the vibration because now the air can pass more freely. It’s not a slam dunk for everyone, but all of the patients we’ve given these to report no snoring or significantly reduced snoring. It can also be used to treat mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, especially if the patient refuses to wear a CPAP (an oxygen machine), which many do refuse to use or find it not workable. The appliance (if you wish to Google it) is called a Micro2 Sleep Appliance for Snoring.  It’s quite durable, made of plastic, and is the smallest appliance of this type I’ve ever prescribed for a patient. I’ve actually just had one made for myself (no snoring or apnea, but I have something called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, which happens to thin females.  I’m pretty much tired all day even if I feel I sleep well). My fee for this is $2800. We make one appointment of about 2 ½ to 3 hours to take records and make measurements with the help of a computer, and then in about 3-4 weeks we have a 15 minute appointment to give the appliance. It is cleaned with toothbrush and toothpaste after each use, and it should be brought to hygiene appointments for inspection.

While snoring may seem funny, it is no joke.  It can be wrecking your sleep, your marriage, and your health. And it CAN be helped.

Dr. Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer.