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Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Snoring is a common condition which affects many patients’ lives.  It occurs during sleep as this is when our muscles are in their most relaxed state.  As the muscles towards the back of the throat and tongue relax they can partially collapse into the airway space and the resultant obstruction in the airway leads to turbulent airflow and vibration of the soft tissues creating the characteristic sound we are all aware of.  Snoring can have a social impact on people’s lives as it is typically annoying to loved ones.  Indeed we find most patients requesting treatment of snoring have been prompted from there sleep deprived other halves.  While snoring alone can have a large impact on patients and their families many patients aren’t aware that it is commonly associated with a condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea which can have some very serious health consequences. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) can occur if the relaxed soft tissues collapses  in a way which is sufficient to obstruct the airway enough that the body is no longer supplied with sufficient oxygen to maintain our body’s needs.  During this time the patient effectively stops breathing and has a corresponding rapid drop in oxygen saturation.  Our body will recognize this and sends emergency signals which cause our muscles to tense and we abruptly wake from our deep sleep.  This doesn’t mean that we will fully wake up but it takes us out of our restful sleep.  We will gradually drift back to a deep sleep and then the cycle can repeat.  As this can occur many times throughout the night it is common for patients with OSA to feel as though they don’t get a proper nights rest.  They will often complain of a feeling of tiredness, a desire to have naps throughout the day, memory problems, mood changes and depression.

Most importantly the body is constantly being deprived of oxygen for sometimes minutes at a time over an extended period which has been shown to cause damaging effects to the heart and blood vessels.  While our body is deprived of oxygen the heart responds by working furiously by pumping harder and faster to try and deliver what supply of oxygen it has available to keep our organs working.  This places much stress on the heart and increases blood pressure.  Research has shown that there is a marked rise in the hormones and substances associated with stress and a rise in the substances that cause inflammation.  Some of the medical conditions associated with OSA include: hypertension, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, arrhythmias and sudden death from cardiovascular event.

Many patients are unaware of their sleep apnoea problem and the only way to properly diagnose this is with a sleep study.  For people with snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnoea we can provide a proven highly effective form of treatment via a properly fitted oral appliance.  The oral appliance looks similar to a thin mouth guard and works by slightly repositioning the lower jaw forward and slightly more open.  This has the effect of opening the airway around the back of the mouth and can relieve the signs, symptoms and serious medical issues already mentioned.  At Shellharbour City Dental we understand the importance of proper diagnosis and management of these conditions and work alongside local medical practices to make sure both diagnosis and treatment are correct and appropriate for each patient’s individual circumstances.

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