SAN DIEGO -- I remember it like it was yesterday.
I remember that sound, that awful, horrid sound, which had me questioning whether lumber was being cut in the upstairs master bedroom.
It was the summer of 1996 and I’d just arrived home from college. My mother had since moved about an hour inland, and for those few months I was going to be staying in the spare bedroom at my aunt and uncle’s house. It became quickly apparent, however, that if I was going to escape my uncle’s echoing snore, which practically shook the massive two-story home to its foundation, that ear plugs were going to need to be among my list of necessities.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned the phenomenon, also called sleep apnea, can potentially be remedied by working with your friendly family dentist.
Dr. Rod Strober of Strober Dental in Hillcrest said that because dentists are doctors of the mouth that they’re well familiar with airways.
“If a patient suspects they have sleep apnea the first thing I’ll ask is if they’ve had it checked,” he said. “If not, I have a monitor I can give them to take home and wear at night. In other cases I can refer them to sleep in an overnight lab and we can determine if they are apneic.
“When a person snores it’s because their throat is collapsing into their airway and the sound is caused by the vibration of air as its going in and out,” Strober said. “And what sleep apnea is, essentially, is the stopping of breathing while someone sleeps. Because of this the body isn’t getting the same type of rejuvenation that someone gets with a normal sleep pattern. This can leave people feeling tired or sleep deprived the following day.”
Although severe cases of sleep apnea may be better treated by a sleep specialist, lesser cases can oftentimes be treated by your dentist.
“I have been able to treat some of my patients by creating an oral appliance for them to wear at night,” Strober said. “This is done by taking impressions of their teeth, and once the appliance is created it holds the lower jaw forward when they fall asleep and keeps the airway open.”
It’s a little bit bulkier than the standard orthodontic retainer, but in essence, he said, it fits the same way.
“During the first appointment we’d do an exam, evaluation and create impressions of the teeth,” he said, “and we’d then have the patient come back in two to three weeks once the appliance has been created. We’ll then make sure it fits correctly and the patient will go home with it that day. We’ll follow up with them in a week and again after a month. We’ll also do a follow up study in about three months to make sure that it’s keeping the jaw in the right position.”
Because the position that the jaw will be placed in is moveable, tweaks and adjustments can be made to the appliance if necessary.
“Patents say they are very pleased with the result and their partners are happier because they sleep better at night too,” Strober said. “Sometimes they’ll report that their teeth don’t come together as well in the morning but within an hour or so their bite is fine. Wearing something at night in between the teeth can cause jaw muscles to stretch, so it may take some time for the muscles to go back into the normal position.”
More than 40 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, Strober said, although up to 93% of women and 82% of men with moderate to severe sleep apnea remain undiagnosed. Left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the likelihood of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, heart failure and coronary heart disease. In the most severe of cases, he said, sleep apnea can potentially lead to death.
Common signs that you might be affected include daytime fatigue, insomnia, waking with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headaches and, of course, snoring.
If you suspect you might be experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, you may want to consider making an appointment with Strober Dental to learn about your options.
For more information on sleep apnea, Strober Dental, and how Dr. Rod Strober and his team can help, call (855) 814-9522 or click HERE.