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Your Healthy Family: Getting and using a dental appliance to reduce snoring

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Snoring is a common problem that confronts men and women, and those who snore, and those who have to sleep with a bed partner that snores. Snoring is a common problem that confronts men and women, and those who snore, and those who have to sleep with a bed partner that snores.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

When I was finally ready to try and deal with my snoring back in May I turned to Dr. Christina Cairns with Colorado Springs Sleep Apnea and Snoring Solutions.  I decided to share my experience with our viewers as I know all too well this is a common problem that confronts men and women, and those who snore, and those who have to sleep with a bed partner that snores.  I thought the process might be as simple as telling her that I snore, and she would produce a mouth guard that would instantly cure me.  I found out that properly dealing with a patient’s snoring is an in depth process that can indeed significantly reduce or stop a person from snoring or help with mild to moderate sleep apnea, but not overnight.  

After an initial consult with Dr. Cairns, she had me take an at home sleep test to make sure my snoring wasn't a sign of anything more serious health wise in terms of sleep apnea.  The results of my home sleep test were that, yes I snored and I also showed signs of very mild obstructive sleep apnea.  Knowing that my family history pointed to sleep apnea and heart problems it was something I wanted to tackle sooner rather than later.

Based on the results of that home sleep test, Dr. Cairns referred me back to my primary care doctor.  As a dentist who now specializes in sleep dentistry, Dr. Cairns doesn’t diagnose sleep disorders, but refers patients back to their primary care doctor, or a sleep doctor for an official diagnosis.  My primary care doctor determined based on the results of the home sleep test, that a more in depth “in-lab sleep study” was not needed at this time, and that an oral appliance would be an appropriate step to try and address my mild sleep apnea.

Dr. Cairns also had some 3D X-rays taken of my mouth, throat and jaw area to get a complete view of my anatomy, what could be causing my snoring and to see if an oral appliance could indeed help. The images clearly showed that at its most narrow point, my airway is only 4.14 millimeters wide suggesting that indeed, with an oral appliance moving my lower jaw forward while I slept, making my airway only slightly larger would almost certainly reduce my snoring.  

With the green light from my primary care doctor, Dr. Cairns next fit me for the appliance.  It was a thorough exam that looked at the overall health of my jaw and the exact nature of my bite.  Next came dental molds that were send off to a lab where the actual appliance would be made.

After a few weeks, my molds were back and I was in for another appointment to make sure they fit properly.  Dr. Cairns also walked me through how to ease into the appliance a few hours at a time, and what to expect in terms of possible jaw and muscle soreness.

Also another mold was made called the morning repositioner.  It’s a small piece of Kevlar material that fits snugly onto my lower front teeth.  Dr. Cairns instructed me, to wear the repositioner every morning for about 10 minutes immediately after removing the appliance.  She told me to bite down on it gently which would slowly return my jaw joint to its normal position.

The appliance took a little longer to get used to than I expected and was more firm than the mouth guards I was use to from sports.  Dr. Cairns takes the approach of slowing moving the jaw out over time, so I began with the smallest setting.  Almost immediately the volume of my snoring dropped dramatically.  While I did experience some soreness it was exactly as Dr. Cairns said it would be, and cleared up in about a week.  After about a month I returned to Dr. Cairns for another visit, and she moved the setting on the appliance to move my jaw out a little further, which further has reduced my snoring.  Dr. Cairns insists on keeping a close eye on her patients and the ongoing health of their jaw.

What I learned from this process is that while you may find dentists who tell you they can help with your snoring, if they are not taking all these steps, they are not likely looking out for your entire health and in the process you could have serious health problems that go untreated or you could do long term damage to your jaw.

If you want to review the entire series of stories on apnea and getting an oral appliance see the links below. 

What is the difference between obstructive and central sleep apnea? http://www.koaa.com/story/34961454/your-healthy-family-the-difference-between-obstructive-and-central-sleep-apnea

How does living at altitude affect sleep apnea? http://www.koaa.com/story/34970591/your-healthy-family-challenges-of-central-sleep-apnea-at-altitude

What can a snoring app on your smart phone tell you? http://www.koaa.com/story/35330387/your-healthy-family-what-can-a-snoring-app-do-for-you

What is a home sleep test? http://www.koaa.com/story/35380089/your-healthy-family-is-a-home-sleep-test-right-for-you

My home test results and what is an in-lab sleep test? http://www.koaa.com/story/35442237/your-healthy-family-benefits-of-an-in-lab-sleep-test

How is a patient fit for an oral appliance for snoring or obstructive apnea? http://www.koaa.com/story/35505352/your-healthy-family-getting-fit-for-an-oral-appliance-for-snoring-and-apnea

 

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