Snoring is a common occurrence caused by a number of factors. A person snores when the flow of air from their mouth or nose to their lungs makes the tissues of the airway vibrate. This usually is caused by a narrowing or blockage (obstruction) in the nose, mouth, or throat (airway).
When a person inhales during sleep, air enters the nose or mouth and passes across the soft palate (the back of the roof of the mouth) on its way to the lungs. The back of the pharynx or mouth-where the tongue and upper throat meet the soft palate and uvula-is collapsible. If this area collapses, the airway becomes blocked or narrowed. The smaller passage disturbs the airflow, which causes the soft palate and uvula to vibrate and knock against the back of the throat, causing snoring. The tonsils and adenoids may also vibrate. The smaller the airway is the louder the snoring, because the tissues vibrate more.
See pictures of the tonsils, adenoids, and uvula and the soft palate as taken from Web MD.
One does not snore when they are awake because the muscles of the throat hold the tissues in the back of the mouth in place widening the airway. When one sleeps, the muscles relax, allowing the tissues to collapse.
Snoring may be caused by:
Loss of muscle tone in the throat, which makes it easier for tissue to collapse. This can be due to aging or lack of fitness.
Blocked nasal passages, which make it more difficult to inhale. This affects the tissue of the throat, which may pull together during the extra effort it takes to breathe, which in turn narrows the airway. A blocked nasal passage can be caused by an upper respiratory infection (such as a cold), an allergy, or nasal polyps.
Enlarged tissues in the nose, mouth, or throat. Enlarged tonsils are a frequent cause of snoring in children
A deviated nasal septum (disrupting the flow of air), which disturbs airflow in the nose.
Other things that may contribute to snoring include:
Obesity. Fat in the throat may narrow the airway.
Drinking alcohol, which depresses the part of the brain that regulates breathing. This can overly relax the tongue and throat muscles, causing them to partially block air movement.
Medicines that relax you or make you drowsy, such as those taken for allergies, depression, or anxiety.
At James Island Dental Associates, we offer a couple of devices to help open one’s airway to decrease the vibration of the tissues in the back of the mouth. These devices work by protruding the lower jaw forward which moves the tongue away from the back of the throat. The devices consist of an upper tray and lower tray that are attached by elastics to gently pull the lower jaw forward. Some of the devices we utilize are listed below. We do not manufacture these devices, but they are fabricated in the lab. Impressions are taken of your mouth so that the trays are custom fit snugly and comfortably for each patient. The plastic straps are adjusted accordingly until the snoring decreases. If snoring is affecting your sleep, lifestyle, or marriage give us call at James Island Dental Associates at 843-762-1234.
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