Symptoms of snoring and sleep apnoea include:
- Waking tired even after a full night’s sleep
- Waking with a headache
- Feeling very sleepy or falling asleep at inappropriate times through the day [for instance, at work or while driving a car]
- Irritability or a short temper
- Problems with concentration or memory.
There are three types of treatment aimed at reducing or stopping sleep disorders. They are:
- Medical treatments which include life changes like weight loss and the gold standard cPAP machine that blows air into the nose and lungs through the night
- Surgical procedures designed to increase the airway size perhaps by removing nasal bones or by amputating the soft palate. Surgical procedures are recognised as having a high failure rate.
- Dental treatments usually involving oral splints worn overnight and designed to move the lower jaw [and thus the tongue] forward and so open the airway behind the mouth – usually the narrowest part of the air passage to the lungs.
Dr John Burford has been making a variety of dental appliances that combat sleep issues over the past 20 years, and he had lectured on the implications of snoring and sleep apnoea in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
Dental appliances have an advantage over medical or surgical procedures that the treatment is totally non-invasive and is drug free and reversible. They may be used on their own or may be used in combination with cPAP machines. In these combinations it is usual for the air flow from the cPAP to be decreased which lowers the chance of air passage dryness and skin rashes.
Dentists make anti-snoring appliances. It is sensible to find a dentist, such as John, who has had a long term experience in making these splints. There are also people who are not dentists who advertise that they make snoring appliances. These people have no medical or dental training and have simply bought into a franchise. Their splints are crude, bulky, and ill-fitting and, although they may be fractionally cheaper than a professional version [we have our appliances made in Australia, Canada, or the US], they quite simply will not be as effective or as long lasting as a dentist-made splint and they are likely to cause other problems such as jaw joint disorders.
At John Burford Dental, we have developed a package for patients with sleep disorders. First we take a cone beam CT scan and assess the airway volume and the likely blockage points [commonly behind the soft palate or the tongue].
Then we loan the patient a portable diagnostic sleep recording device that the patient wears overnight on the wrist and returns to our office the following day for downloading into our computer for an indepth analysis.
note: a full study in a sleep lab is the gold standard - but some patients may not have the time or the money to complete this type of analysis. In that case, our portable sleep diagnostic system is an ideal alternative.
If we determine that the patient has a mild or moderate OSA problem, then we proceed with making a dental appliance as detailed above. However if we find the patient has a severe sleep apnoea problem, we refer him [or her] on for a full assessment by a sleep physician.
Remember that this is a dental treatment for a medical condition. It is important that the patient consult his doctor before obtaining a dental splint for airway problems. And also remember that, even if the appliance is expensive, it is still a hell of a lot cheaper than a funeral.