The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that 40 percent of adult men and 24 percent of adult woman are habitual snorers. This common phenomenon can be very disruptive to family members’ sleep and can often cause loved ones to sleep in a separate room. What many people may not know is that snoring may be a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many other health problems.

Dr. Lynn D’Andrea, a sleep specialist currently at the University of Wisconsin, describes the snoring disorder well in her 2004 Scientific American article. When sleeping, the muscles throughout the body relax. This may cause the large muscular tongue to fall back and other structures of the airway to collapse causing turbulent and limited airflow. The result of the forced air through the relaxed walls is the unfavorable vibratory noise known as snoring.

D’Andrea emphasized that snoring is a symptom of restricted airflow or restricted intake of oxygen. Mayo Clinic states that normal oxygen levels in the blood should be 95-100 percent. Oxygen levels under 90 percent are considered low. The organs and cells within the human body need oxygen in order to function properly. With limited oxygen, the function is limited. Therefore, if one is having severe airway obstruction, he or she may be more at risk for systemic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also lists some other symptoms of severe airway obstruction including excessive daytime sleepiness, choking or gasping while you sleep, pauses in breathing, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, moodiness, irritability or depression, and frequent need to urinate during the night.

If your loved one is habitually snoring, exploration of the cause and severity may help their overall health immensely. Causes may be anatomically such as enlargened tongue, tonsils, nasal anatomy or adenoids. Other causes also include genetics, obesity, allergies, nasal congestion, alcohol, smoking and medications.

The severity of the airway restriction determines the treatment. The goal of treatment is to permit 95-100 percent oxygen to circulate in the blood allowing for proper systemic function of the body; in basic terms, open the airway.

If you are concerned with your loved one’s snoring, consult your physician. In addition, many dentists are increasingly screening patients’ airways as they are able to see the anatomical and dental signs during regular dental visits.

• Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit www.BellaVistaDentalCare.com.

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