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28th January 2015

Snoring

Snoring is an extremely common issue and one that can wreak havoc for patients. This also includes their partners who have to endure sleepless nights as they are forced to listen to the loud noises all night.

The snoring sound is produced as air passes down a narrow respiratory tube. Patient who are overweight are more likely to snore as the weight causes the throat to narrow further. As the air passes, it vibrates causing air turbulence from the nose down to the vocal chords. This produces the classic snore.

In the majority of cases, the tremors only happen during sleep, but in more severe instances, this can occur constantly. The reason for this is while the snoring that takes place during slumber is due to reduced muscle tone, so a loss of this usually means there is not enough to stop the airway tissue from vibrating.

People who make these sounds during sleep may suffer from a number of problems, including:

  • Poor muscle tone in the tongue and the throat. When this area is too relaxed, either from drugs or alcohol that cause sleepiness, the tongue falls backwards into the airway and the throat draws in from the sides, which can also occur during sleep.
  • Excessive thickness of the throat tissue. Children with large tonsils often snore, while overweight individuals have bulkier necks than those with a healthy BMI. Similarly, cysts and tumours can cause this issue, but this only occurs in extremely rare circumstances.
  • Obstructed nasal airways. A blocked nose requires extra effort to pull air through it. This creates an exaggerated vacuum in the throat, tugging together the floppy tissues of the orifice resulting in snoring.
  • Long soft palate or uvula, which narrows the opening from the nose into the throat. As it dangles, this part acts as a noisy flutter valve during the relaxed breathing.

Snoring can mask other symptoms such as Sleep Apnoea which is a very serious condition that causes you to stop breathing at night. A specialist referral will be made if the dentist thinks you may suffer from this.

Treatments

Individuals who snore in any position, or are disrupting the sleep of other people, should seek medical assistance as soon as they can to ensure they are not affected by sleep apnoea.

The first line of treatment provided that sleep apnoea has been excluded is to loose weight. This means less pressure on the air passage so less sound.

Nasal strips can help increase the air passage via the nose but will not stop sounds deeper down

Mandibular repositioning splints are two plastic gum shields that pull the lower jaw forward to help increase the flow of air. This also stops the base of the tongue vibrating and can help reduce or eliminate the snore.
In severe cases surgery may also me needed and is best carried out by a hospital specialist.

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