The sound of snoring actually comes from the suction that occurs in ones throat when soft tissues of the neck, tongue and throat close off ones airways. The vibration of air trying to make its way through this closed space creates the loud snoring noise and when totally closed can cause suffocation and lack of oxygen multiple times during the night. Sometimes this lack of oxygen will cause someone to wake suddenly gasping for air. Often times the snorer is unaware of these disturbances, which is why it is so important for their spouses or family members to be educated on the danger of snoring.
Common characteristic of OSA sufferers:
- Large Shirt Collar size or neck size
- Chronic Heart Burn
- Large tongue
- Small Mouth
- History of Braces
- Large tonsils or never had your tonsils removed
- Heavy wear on teeth
- TMJ pain
- Chronic Nasal congestion
Chronic nasal congestion, a large neck, large tongue, large tonsils, carrying extra weight and a small mouth are all signs of a reduced size of airway opening. In some cases, orthodontic treatment (braces) actually narrows ones palate (roof of their mouth) causing a smaller opening of the airway. A Mallampati Classification is a score of one’s airway size from I-IV.
The suction of soft tissue that causes the snoring noise, also causes a suction from down in the stomach throughout the night. This suctions up stomach acids that can cause chronic heart burn and even acidic wear on ones teeth.
When an OSA sufferer is suffocating during the night the only way they can re-open their airway to breathe again is to rapidly thrust their lower jaw forward after it has drifted back into their airway. This forceful motion of the lower jaw grinds teeth against teeth and puts extra stress on the jaw joint called the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), multiple times night after night.
Take a look at the diagram below to see how airways close during OSA. The far right photo shows how a Dentist Fabricated Oral Appliance opens the airway:
Check out our next blog Is your Loved One’s Snoring shortening their lifespan?
Or Check out our Oral Appliance for Sleep Breathing page to see how your dentist can help OSA sufferers.