If you snore, and your spouse/significant other lets you know about it, then I may
have a solution for you. OR, perhaps, you ARE the spouse/significant other and you
can’t sleep because Dinglefritz is sawing logs on the other side of the bed... The
solution may be simple.
For the most part, people snore because of airway obstruction. The obstruction may
be caused by many things including posturing, anatomy, or other medical issues. The
most common cause is when people lay back to sleep, the lower jaw falls in a more
retruded position (ie. under your ear, toward the back of your neck). This seals
the posterior part of the tongue against the soft part of the palate. So when the
lungs try to draw in air, its like the wind blowing a loose tarp, flapping it all
over the place!
The consequence for this is “Sleep Apnea”. That is, you get less air (and, therefore,
less oxygen!) into your body over the sleep period. And, I don’t know about you,
but after running a full dental practice and coming home to three kids bouncing around
like maniacs, I consider “sleep time” an EXTREMELY VALUABLE commodity! Time spent
sleeping is more valuable than ANY material thing I know! Not to mention, when you
spend hours on end with broken sleep, unable to get your fair share of oxygen into
your system over your “allotted” sleep time, there are a whole host of medical problems
which may ensue including hypertension (high blood pressure), behavioral and mental
problems, and overall well being. In fact, I can’ t think of one medical process
in the human body that isn’t ultimately fueled by oxygen!
So, like I said, the solution may be simple. They sell those Breath Right strip
things at the local drug stores. These may help A LITTLE if the problem is a more
superficial nasal passage problem. But, if the problem is retruded jaw closing tongue
against palate causing tarp to flap, then you’re only blowing more air against the
The best and most common cure for simple snoring is to wear a prosthesis that physically
holds the jaw in a more protruded position (ie. more to the direction of your chin.)
This positioning breaks the seal of your tongue against the soft palate allowing
air to pass freely into your lungs.
There are many devices that do this. But, the most simple and basic one (and a great
majority of snoring cases ARE simple and basic!) is called the Silent Nite Snoring
device (see photo). Its like two night guards (upper and lower) connected on the
side by a two semi-rigid plastic bands. The “guards” have a hard acrylic shell outside
and a softer “squishy” inside for comfort. They slip over the teeth easily. Essentially
the upper “guard” (upper jaw) holds the lower guard (ie. the lower jaw) forward through
Each Silent Nite kit comes with an array of band sizes. I always start the patient
off on almost the biggest band size and let them wear it a few nights. If the patient
is still snoring, I replace the band with a smaller band, ie. positioning the lower
jaw further forward than previous. Again, I allow the patient to wear it a few more
nights. If the person is still snoring, repeat the process with a shorter and shorter
One risk in pulling the jaw into a more protrusive position is TMJ issues. If the
person’s joint begins to hurt due to the lower jaw being in too much of a protruded
position, I will then back them down to a larger band. The whole process is a balancing
act between snoring and TMJ issues. However, in a lot of cases, I’ve had the more
protruded position actually HELP TMJ issues. After all, Night Guards (which are intended
specifically for TMJ problems) position the lower jaw in a more open, comfortable
position for the joint. I take TMJ issues on a case by case basis. Its a conversation
Another issue people may have is movement of teeth in the process. Due to the fact
that these are “full arch” splints (meaning the “guards” go over all of the teeth
from one side to the other) then the support of “teeth against teeth” prevent the
movement of individual teeth. I would never reposition the jaw using the support
of only a few teeth. All or none is the way to go. In fact, wearing these “full arch
splints” probably will keep your teeth FROM moving (ie. there is normal movement
and crowding of teeth that comes with age and jaw growth.) The splints may actually
help with this!
The last issue that I will mention is Patient Compliance. Are someone who can physically
wear these appliances on your teeth without is bugging the begeezies out of you??
My answer to that is: You don’t know until you try.
And, what’s the alternative? Depriving your body from a lifetime of oxygen?? And,
who knows what other medical problems are also related to your inability to sleep???
My assumtion is that its worth a shot. The mind can get used to a lot of things if
it understands the alternative is worse.
Overall, these jaw positioning devices are great, but not for everyone. For example,
heavy bruxers (or jaw grinders) SOMETIMES may crush these bands like they’re yesterday’s
breakfast. But, in MANY cases, the device has actually helped with grinding. Again,
its a trial and error treatment “conversation”.
For SEVERE sleep apnea patients, this simple device may not cut it. For those people,
you enter the world of “C-Pap” machines and positive pressure. If you think Silent
Nite is obtrusive, wait until you see a C-Pap machine. It’s a huge mask you wear
over your face at night that physically blows positive pressure oxygen into your
lungs. I will not get into the details of this treatment, but, even in those cases,
I would implement jaw positioning as a “first try” on fixing the problem.
Overall, the “silent night” device is not a “cure all” but its a non invasive,
relatively inexpensive step that could potentially improve your quality of life in
a drastic way. I offer this form of treatment. Please call my office if this sounds
like something that could benefit you.