Snoring and sleep apnoea

About snoring and sleep apnoea

Snoring is common, with almost half of all adults snoring at least occasionally1. And research shows that snoring becomes worse as you age – affecting 30% of men and 20% of women under the age of 60, increasing to 60% and 40% over the age of 601.

Snoring isn’t usually a cause for concern, but it can be frustrating to live with. If you snore, you may find it a nuisance, especially if it affects your sleep or wakes those close to you during the night. It can also lead to sleep deprivation, which can affect your mental health, physical wellbeing and your productivity and performance at work.

Although snoring isn’t something you would usually associate with the dentist, it’s something that your local practice may be able to help with.

What causing snoring?

When you’re awake, there are muscles in your nose, mouth and throat that keep your airways open. But when you sleep, these muscles relax, causing your airways to narrow. As air passes through, it can cause the surrounding tissues to vibrate. This results in the sound we call snoring.

While simple snoring is usually nothing to worry about, it can be a sign of a more serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).

What is obstructive sleep apnoea?

Obstructive sleep apnoea causes the airways in your throat to narrow or completely collapse while you sleep. This can even stop you breathing for a short time, usually for around 10 seconds. You may wake up to a choking or gasping sensation and feel out of breath. With sleep apnoea, you often go back to sleep fairly quickly and have no memory of it happening in the morning.

This happens continually throughout the night, sometimes hundreds of times. It can disrupt your sleep pattern and, as a result, you may end up feeling extremely tired the next day. This could affect other areas of your life such as your performance at work or your ability to drive.

In the worst case, OSA can lead to several conditions which affect your heart, including heart failure, arrhythmia, strokes and high blood pressure.

What causes obstructive sleep apnoea?

The condition is most common in people aged between 30 and 60, although you can get it at any age. Similar to snoring, it’s more common in men than women. You’re more likely to develop sleep apnoea if you:

  • Are older
  • Are overweight. If you excess fat around your neck, it can increase pressure to your airway and narrow it even further
  • Have a close relative who suffers from sleep apnoea
  • Are a smoker
  • Drink lots of alcohol, especially in the evenings
  • Use sedatives to help you sleep
  • Sleep on your back
  • Have medical conditions including an underactive thyroid, Down’s syndrome, acromegaly or other conditions which affect your jaw, nose, throat or tongue

How can a dentist help with snoring or sleep apnoea?

If snoring’s getting in the way of your daily life, you should mention it to your dentist at your next check-up, or you can book an appointment with a practice who offers snoring treatment.

During the appointment, your dentist will ask you some questions about your snoring and they’ll also examine your mouth. Dentists aren’t able to diagnose obstructive sleep apnoea, but they can help recognise the signs and may signpost you to your GP if they believe you have the condition.

If you suffer from simple snoring, or while you’re being referred to your GP for an official diagnosis of sleep apnoea, your dentist can help alleviate the problem with a custom-made snoring appliance.

Snoring appliances

A snoring appliance helps keep your airways open while you sleep. It opens the back of your throat and causes your lower jaw and tongue to sit further forward than it usually would. You wear it over your teeth, like a gum shield.

The snoring appliance given to you by a dentist is custom-made, so it fits the shape and size of your mouth for maximum effect and comfort. You might find snoring appliances online, but these are less effective than custom-made ones because they’re one size fits all.


Having a custom-made design and fit your appliance will likely make it last for years. You may need occasional readjustments, and it might be subjected to some normal wear and tear, but professional snoring appliances usually last for the long term.


As snoring appliances are custom-made for your mouth, they’re generally comfortable to wear.

Wearing a snoring appliance at night can take a little getting used to, but it will make for a much better night’s sleep.

An improved health and social life

Snoring appliances can help combat the effects of snoring, and therefore benefit your health.

They can also help to ease the strain that snoring can put on a personal relationships, especially if it keeps your partner awake at night.

What’s the treatment process for a custom-made snoring appliance?

Having a snoring appliance fitted is a simple process which usually takes around one to three weeks in total, not including follow-up appointments. It usually requires just two or three visits to your dentist.

Step 1: Your consultation: Firstly, you’ll sit down with your dentist and discuss the problems you’re having with snoring. They’ll ask you some questions about your health and lifestyle and will look in your mouth to make an assessment. They’ll then discuss your treatment options with you and signpost you to your GP if required.

Step 2: Impressions: If you’ve decided to have a snoring appliance, your dentist will take impressions of your mouth so that the appliance is custom-made to ensure the best results. They’ll also record your bite to make sure your appliance has an accurate fit.

Step 3: Fitting appointment: When you come back for your next appointment, your dentist will give you the appliance and test it in your mouth to make sure you can bite down properly and that it’s comfortable to wear. They’ll give you hints and tips for getting used to a snoring appliance and you can ask them any other questions you might have.

Step 4: Follow-up: You’ll have a follow-up appointment a month after your fitting so your dentist can check the appliance is working correctly. We’ll then ask you to come in again after three months, and then annually, to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.

Interested in snoring treatment?

We have practices all over the UK who can help you combat snoring. Search for your nearest Bupa Dental Care practice below and speak to us about how we could help you with sleep apnoea.

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