Snoring – It’s not funny anymore!

One of my earliest childhood memories is of me and my cousin Luan trying to shoot peas through straws across the room into my grandfather’s open mouth as he sat snoring in his easy chair.  Fortunately, we were not very good shots! But we thought it was hilarious and has a great time trying. And for most of us snoring continues to be a source of amusement, at least until we start getting elbowed by our irritated spouses!

There is however a much more sinister reason to quit laughing about snoring.  In adults snoring is often either a precursor to or a direct sign of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition where people actually stop breathing for short periods of time while they are sleeping.  This stress and oxygen deficit then can be responsible for clenching and grinding of teeth, TMJ pain and discomfort, daytime fatigue, forgetfulness, dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

In children snoring has been associated with ADHA, constricted facial growth, and crooked teeth leading to airway constriction which in turn is the major cause of adult OSA and all the problems I just mentioned.  Parents, if your child snores, please don’t ignore it. Get help and do whatever it takes to get it under control! Open unrestricted airways look better, make your children feel and behave better, and will help them avoid a host of potentially fatal adult ailments.

EIGHT QUESTIONS to help identify individuals at risk

If you do snore, here are 8 screening questions to help you identify whether or not you have OSA.

  1. Do you snore loudly (loud enough to be heard through closed doors or your bed partner elbows you to stop)?
  2. Do you often feel tired, sleepy, or fatigued during the daytime (including falling asleep while driving or talking to someone)?
  3. Has anyone observed you stop breathing or choking/gasping during your sleep?
  4. Do you have or are being treated for high blood pressure?
  5. Are you obese; is your Body Mass Index greater than 30?  (weight [pounds]  ÷ height2 [inches] x 703)
  6. Are you older than 50?
  7. Is your neck size large?  (Measured around Adam’s apple; male ≥ 17” / female ≥ 16”)
  8. Are you male?

Answering yes to 2 or more of these questions is an indication that you need to be further screened by a sleep physician or dentist trained in treating sleep-disordered breathing.  This screening will involve further physical examination and most probably some sort of nighttime sleep analysis.

TREATMENT and PREVENTIVE OPTIONS for sleep-disordered breathing

Sleep-disordered breathing is largely a lifestyle induced disease, so there is a wide overlap between treatment and prevention.  The first half of this list consists of do-it-yourself modalities, whereas the later items are treatment modalities that will require professional assistance.

  • Eliminate sugar, white flour, and dairy – In the 1920’s, Dr. Weston Price was the first to correlate a modern refined diet with dental/airway deformity, obesity, and systemic disease.
  • Exercise – Regular exercise will open and clean the airway, as well as help lose excess weight.
  • Nose breath – Mouth breathing, day or night, even while exercising, is a major contributor to chronic congestion and decreased physical performance.
  • Xylitol nose spray – This will help clean and disinfect the airway, as well as promote a healthy bioflora.
  • Tape mouth – Wearing 1” 3MTM Medical Tape over your mouth at night &/or during the day when needed (like when exercising) is the absolute cheapest “appliance” you can get to help train yourself to breath properly and stop snoring.
  • Appliance therapy – Qualified dentists can fabricate nighttime appliances that will help open the airway and facilitate proper breathing.
  • Dental arch expansion – Orthodontic expansion of narrow smile lines and crooked teeth give the tongue the room it needs to get out of the back of the throat, one of the most common causes of airway constriction.
  • CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines can be a pain, but they are proven to hold the airway open.
  • Surgery – Surgical removal of excessive tissue like swollen tonsils, when indicated, can also open a constricted airway.

My advice is always to do everything you can to prevent and reverse airway problems on your own, and at the same time to seek professional guidance to assure your efforts are successful.  It just might save your life!

Dr. Lon Peckham provides comprehensive and wholistic dental care in Priest River, Idaho.  He is a consultant certified in Advanced Dental Implantology, as a Lifestyle Health Facilitator, leads a national dental study club for the acclaimed Dawson Academy, and is currently pursuing certification by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine.  He helps patients and dentists successfully incorporate whole-health into their lives and practices.