Sleep Medicine

Treating Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Why do we need to sleep anyways?


People often think of sleeping as a time when our body shuts down and our mind stops working. This is absolutely not the case! On the contrary, sleep is a time when our body is active not only in restoring, rejuvenating and strengthening itself, but also of processing the events of the day and consolidating our memories1. Research has proven that our bodies require long periods of undisturbed sleep in order to synthesize and regulate hormones, to grow and repair muscle and tissues, and to enhance mental function. It’s fair to say that sleep impacts every aspect of our health and daily life!


Why do we snore? What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?


Snoring is a sound that occurs during sleep when soft tissue at the back of our throat vibrates as we breathe. Snoring is extremely common in men, but also occurs frequently in women, especially during pregnancy and after menopause. Age, obesity, nasal obstruction, alcohol and smoking all increase the risk of snoring, as does a narrow airway or misaligned jaws2. Snoring can occur in younger, physically fit people as well. Snoring is often a sign of sleep apnea.


When the muscles at the back of our throat relax too much, the soft tissue surrounding our airway doesn’t simply vibrate, but it collapses and blocks the flow of air into and out of our lungs. As a result, repeated breathing pauses occur, which often reduces our oxygen levels. These breathing pauses are followed by brief awakenings that disturb our sleep. We call these episodes of arrested breathing apnea. Nearly thirty million adults in the US suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)3.


Is Treating OSA Important?


Sleep apnea is a significant problem that affects as much as 20 percent of the North American population. Diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea and other types of sleep disordered breathing is critically important to your health. Untreated sleep apnea often causes excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, as well as morning headaches and memory loss. Accidents at work as well as an increased risk of motor vehicle collisions occurs in people with untreated OSA. Untreated sleep apnea raises the risk of other physiological problems including:


  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic acid reflux
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Clenching/grinding and TMJ problems


Severe, untreated sleep apnea even increases your risk of death. 3


How is Snoring and OSA Treated?


There are basically 3 options for the treatment of sleep apnea and snoring. These include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliance therapy (OAT/MAD) and surgery.


    • CPAP therapy involves wearing a face mask connected by tubing to a constantly running machine. This machine blows a continuous stream of air into the throat to hold open the airway as a person sleeps and breaths
    • Oral appliance therapy uses a mouth guard-like device (worn only during sleep) to position the lower jaw forward and maintain an open, unobstructed airway.
    • Surgical options vary and are largely dependent upon the anatomical conditions and limitations of the individual.


*All treatment modalities have varying side effects and rates of success.


Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) / Mandibular Advancement Devices (MAD)


Mandibular Advancement Devices (MADs) are fabricated to fit in the mouth just like an orthodontic appliance or a custom-made mouthguard. Because the tongue and soft-tissue at the back of the throat is to a large degree attached to the inside of the chin, by moving the lower jaw (mandible) forward it is possible to open the airway and stabilize it. MAD’s also improve the strength and rigidity of the airway by increasing the muscle activity of the tongue and other airway muscles.


The MATRx Solution


Oral appliances are a well-known and often preferred treatment option for patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Oral appliances only treat about 60 percent of OSA cases – and the challenge is selecting which patients will respond to the treatment. Southport Dental Care is proud to be offer to our patients a unique and unrivaled technology created by Calgary’s own Dr. John Remmers and the team at Zephyr Sleep Solutions. Using the MATRx Plus (a tablet-based and cloud-connected medical device designed for home use by Dr. Remmers and his Zephyr team), the need for a patient to undergo expensive and time-consuming testing has been eliminated. Patients can be identified as being positive responders to Oral Appliance Therapy, a sleep physician can confidently prescribe an appliance and a dentist can easily implement it—a solution that patients will actually use long-term.


Zephyr’s MATRx sleep technology has been installed in over 200 sleep labs and clinics, and over 10,000 MATRx tests have been completed in in North America. To bring this product to market, Zephyr recently partnered with Dentsply Sirona, the largest manufacturer of professional dental products in the world.


Treating snoring or obstructive sleep apnea with oral appliance therapy can help you feel like a new person. You will find that your symptoms, and your quality of life, can improve dramatically when you remain committed to your treatment and use it nightly. It is likely that you will sleep better, have more energy and feel sharper throughout the day. You may find that your bed partner begins to sleep better, too!