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What Causes Snoring: Its Effect On Oral Health

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Snoring can be annoying, but did you know it can affect your oral health and wellbeing? Many things can cause snoring, and it can be a symptom of more significant health issues. Learn more about what causes snoring and how it connects to your oral health.

Causes of Snoring

While you're sleeping, the tissues in the roof of the mouth, tongue, and throat relax. Sometimes the soft tissues relax so much that they partially block your airway, especially if you are sleeping on your back. As air flows through your throat, the soft tissues in the way start to vibrate, causing the snoring sound. The more narrowed your airway becomes, the more forceful the airflow and louder the noise.

Snoring occurs when your airway is obstructed during sleep. These obstructions can be caused by the tongue or soft tissues in the mouth. When muscles in the top of the airway hit each other, the vibration creates a loud noise.

Why Do I Snore?

Snoring from time to time is very common among adults. Sleep Education estimates the prevalence of chronic snoring as 24 percent of women, 40 percent of men, and 10 percent of children. Children may snore because missing teeth can change the shape of tissues in the mouth, contributing to a blocked airway.

If this is a new issue, you may be asking, 'Why am I snoring?' According to Mayo Clinic, causes of snoring include the following:

  • Some people simply are born with a narrow airway due to a low, thick, soft palate, elongated uvula, or large tonsils.
  • The position of your airway may change when sleeping on your back with a flat pillow.
  • Obesity or overweight people may have more tissue around their throat that may narrow their airway.
  • Chronic nasal congestion can cause snoring by obstructing the airflow when breathing.
  • Alcohol or tobacco can relax the muscles in the throat, causing airway blockages.

Other risk factors that contribute to snoring include:

  • Gender: Men have significantly more rates of snoring than women
  • Age: People 40 years of age or older tend to snore more than younger people
  • Pregnancy
  • Family history of snoring

Snoring can lead to tiredness or fatigue during the day. If the snoring is severe enough, you may not be getting enough oxygen at night. If you feel ill or fatigued, contact your physician. Snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where you don't breathe properly.

Can Snoring Cause Bad Breath?

If you've ever woken up with worse morning breath than usual, it may be because you snored last night. When you're snoring, you're breathing with your mouth open, causing dry mouth. When your mouth is dry, there isn't that protective layer of saliva to moisten the tissues in your mouth. Dry mouth can lead to bad breath, more bacteria buildup, infections and sores, and tooth decay.

Saliva is necessary to a healthy mouth because it washes away food debris and bacteria from the tongue, gums, and cheeks. When food debris and bacteria are not removed, they decompose and leave an odor behind (bad breath). Lack of saliva also allows harmful bacteria and other organisms in the mouth to grow too quickly, which can result in mouth infections and sores. When saliva can't protect and cleanse your mouth, it increases your tooth decay and gum disease risk.

If you can correct the reasons for your snoring, that may reduce your bad breath and other snoring effects. There are various treatments available. Those seeking treatment for snoring should consult their dentist or physician.

How Can My Dentist Help Me?

If you have noticed a consistent snoring problem at night, mention it to your dentist. Your dental professional can make recommendations for treating snoring. One of these tests is a sleep study. During the sleep study, experts monitor and analyze sleep patterns and vital signs overnight. These experts will be able to inform you why you snore and talk to your physician about recommendations.

Besides a sleep study, your dentist may recommend other remedies, including procedures to remove or adjust tissues in your mouth to clear your airway.

You can do things at home to reduce snoring too. These strategies can help reduce snoring:

  • Consume little or no alcohol before bed
  • Don't sleep on your back. Try sleeping on your side with a supportive pillow.
  • Use nasal strips to open the airway in your nose.

With your dental professional's support, you can figure out why your snoring and sleep more soundly at night.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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