Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea affects 1 in 10 people moderately and 1 in 100 severely.

Snoring coupled with excessive daytime sleepiness, may indicate obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that intermittently disrupts breathing and limits respiratory airflow. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea may put your heart at risk. Obstructive sleep apnea is a risk factor for high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, strokes and signs of cardiovascular disease. Treating the disorder can improve heart performance and lessen the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

What causes Snoring?

Snoring occurs when the structures in the throat are large and when muscles relax enough to cause the airway to narrow and partially obstruct the flow of air. As the air passes through these obstructions, these structures vibrate producing the snoring sound. Large tonsils, a long soft palate and uvula and excess fat deposits contribute to airway narrowing.

Symptoms and Effects of Sleep Apnea:

  • Symptoms include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:
  • Loud snoring
  • Interrupted breathing while asleep
  • Falling asleep when inactive and at inappropriate times
  • Rhythmic limb or body movements when asleep
  • Restlessness while sleeping
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Continual awakening during the night
  • Sleep terrors or nightmares
  • Irregular heartbeat during sleep
  • Excessive perspiration during sleep
  • Teeth grinding during sleep
  • Awakening with a choking feeling or gasping for air
  • Headache or confusion upon awakening
  • Chronic fatigue or non-restful sleep
  • High blood pressure and other cardiac problems
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression, reduced sense of well-being
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty learning or concentrating
  • Lack of energy and motivation

Sleep is essential for our physical and mental well-being. It is a restorative process that enables a person to be healthy and productive. Adults should have between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, yet millions suffer from sleep disorders that deprive them of this necessary rest. These disorders diminish quality of life and pose significantmedical problems such as strain on the heart and lungs that can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke.

What causes Sleep Apnea?

Narrowing airway passages can cause Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Muscles relax during sleep. When the muscles used to breathe relax too much, the tongue is sucked against the back of the throat causing airflow to stop. The oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough to awaken the sleeper partially. The obstruction in the throat clears and the flow of air starts again (usually with a loud gasp). This is called apnea. The most common cause of airway constriction during sleep apnea is the tongue. The tongue relaxes excessively during sleep and falls back into the airway with each breath. Air travels faster through a slender tube, this rapidly moving air causes the soft tissue in the throat to vibrate, which produces the loud sound of snoring and compromises the ability to breath. Some patients experience up to 300 apnea episodes each night. Severe cases may have up to 700 per night.


Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is provided to open airway passages and improve airflow to the lungs. In mild cases, weight loss may all that is needed. Weight loss can help to reduce excess tissue that obstructs the airway passages in the necek of an overweight person. People with neck sizes of 17 inches or larger are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

The Sleep Apnea/Snoring Appliance:

Oral appliances have several advantages over other forms of therapy. They are comfortable to wear, and easy to care for. Treatment is reversible and non-invasive.

Pi Dental Center works in conjunction with Dr. Kenneth Hilsen, president of The Sleep Disorder Society, to provide patients with the Hilsen Dental Appliance (shown at left) that has proven successful in treating snoring and sleep apnea. Non-invasive and comfortable to wear, this appliance has been proven effective in treating sleep apnea. Patients have expressed their satisfaction in using this appliance. Clinical studies have shown that the appliance is effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in the majority of cases.

The Sleep Apnea/Snoring Appliance is made up of 2 small custom-made plastic devices that looks similar to orthodontic retainers or athletic mouthguards. They fit over the teeth and are worn while sleeping. The device works by moving the lower jaw and tongue forward and opening the airway in the back of the throat to let air flow.

Most medical insurance policies will cover the cost of this appliance when the patient is diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea by a certified sleep disorder center. At Pi Dental Center,  Dr. Glenn Wolfinger has treated many patients using custom appliances and night guards. They work closely with physicians and sleep centers to determine a diagnosis and develop the best treatment protocol for each patient. Prior to seeking treatment for obstructive sleep apnea at Pi Dental Center, patients should have a sleep study performed at a sleep center.

The First Step:

Determining if you have obstructive sleep apnea is the first step. There are many reputable sleep centers throughout the country. At the sleep center, technicians monitor the patient’s breathing patterns during overnight sleep studies. Persons wishing to undergo an overnight study at a sleep center will need a physician’s referral.

There is a sleep center located at Central Montgomery County Medical Center near Pi Dental Center. The center can be reached at 215-361-6718.

Central Montgomery Medical Center
100 Medical Campus Drive
Lansdale, PA 19446

Pi Dental Center, Fort Washington, PA