Snoring Treatment Devices: Explained
Dentists have responsibility for the teeth, jaws and related structures including the upper airway, and this makes them great snoring and sleep apnea treatment providers.
There are over a hundred different snoring and sleep apnea mouth pieces for the dentist to choose from, which can be confusing and expensive.
The steps to deciding which solution to use is determined by the clinical needs of the patient, insurance coverage and patient compliance. This article lays out the treatment options for snoring and sleep apnea from the point of view of the dentist practicing the treatment of snoring and sleep apnea treatment with oral appliance therapy devices.
How to Select the Best Anti-Snoring Solution for Your Patient
As many as 50% of patients snore. Learn how to choose the treatment that helps them long term.
by Randy Clare, Glidewell August 31st, 2020
The best anti-snoring device is one that the patient will use every night, all night. In the medical literature, this is known as compliance. In order to test compliance, the patient must first receive the device. This is referred to as accessibility.
The scale that we use to judge snoring devices includes compliance, access and affordability. These considerations are in addition to clinical outcome. Does it stop the snoring? If the device is difficult to access because of a complicated diagnostic protocol or the patient cannot comfortably use the device all night long, then even the most effective treatment cannot be considered the best therapy.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PATIENT SNORES?
Snoring is due to a partially collapsed airway. The airway relaxes and the tissues lose their tone and vibrate as the patient inhales and exhales. The sound that is created is snoring. Nearly everyone snores now and then, but for some people it can be a chronic problem, which can sometimes also indicate a serious health condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
If snoring is accompanied by any of the following issues, it may warrant consultation with a dentist or physician for OSA evaluation:
- Witnessed breathing pauses during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Morning headaches
- Dry mouth upon awakening
- Restless sleep
- Gasping or choking at night
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain at night
- Loud snoring that disrupts a partner’s sleep
In children, symptoms may include a poor attention span, behavioral issues or poor performance in school.
OSA often is characterized by loud snoring followed by periods of silence when breathing stops or nearly stops. Eventually, this reduction or pause in breathing may signal the person to wake up, and the patient may awaken with a loud snort or gasping sound.
For this post, we will focus only on snoring, which is a primary complaint and the reason most patients seek treatment for sleep-disordered breathing.
Lifestyle changes are perhaps the most important and effective treatments for snoring. To treat snoring, doctors are likely to first recommend lifestyle changes, such as the following:
- Weight loss
Fatty tissue around the neck and throat can contribute to the airway narrowing and the snoring that results. Losing weight can sometimes be all it takes to resolve snoring.
- Alcohol avoidance close to bedtime
Alcohol is a depressant, and it works as a muscle relaxant. After alcohol consumption, muscles of the airway can relax, allowing tissues to collapse into the airway.
- Treatment for nasal congestion
Nasal congestion can act as a further obstruction of the airway, making the snoring sound even worse.
- Avoiding sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation can lead to very deep sleep that results in further airway relaxation. The more relaxed the tissues of the airway, the higher the possibility of partial collapse and the snoring that goes with it.
- Sleep positioning
Sleeping on your back allows the tongue and soft tissues to collapse into the airway. Side sleeping is the preferred position for a healthy night’s sleep.
Oral appliances are custom-fit dental mouthpieces that are made by a dentist. The most popular design is called a mandibular advancement device (MAD). The MAD engages the upper and lower teeth and, using adjustment arms, positions the jaw slightly forward during sleep. This forward position serves to put tension on the muscles and ligaments of the airway to keep them from collapsing and causing the snoring sound.
See the example below. The adjustment arms of the Silent Nite® Sleep Appliance work like a hinge to improve patient comfort. This MAD allows the patient to talk, drink water and take medication if necessary. When the patient is wearing the oral appliance, it is not visible to the bed partner. It makes no sound, and when titrated correctly, neither will the patient. Other sleep appliances include the EMA, Oasys,and the DreamTAP.
The Silent Nite Sleep Appliance treats snoring and sleep apnea by positioning the jaw slightly forward during sleep.
When measured against the above scale, oral appliances for snoring rate as follows:
- Compliance: Patients who wear oral appliances for snoring find them comfortable and have no problem wearing them every night. In fact, one study that followed 256 patients for over two years found that patients were able to sustain wearing the appliance all night long about 90% of the time.
- Access and affordability: There are over 200,000 dentists in the United States, and the ADA states that 52% of adults report seeing their dentist every six months. Dental care is readily available in the U.S.
While sleep apnea treatment is covered by medical insurance, snoring treatments are not. In the dental office, snoring treatments range from $500 to $1,000, depending on the practitioner and geographical location. The American Sleep Association says: “The average cost for a sleep apnea mouthguard is estimated at $1,800–$2,000. This includes the actual sleep apnea mouthpiece, dentist visits, adjustments, follow-ups, and modifications to the dental device. Most health insurance companies and Medicare cover oral devices for sleep apnea.”