Is My Tongue Causing My Snoring and Sleep Apnea?

There are several reasons why a person may experience snoring or sleep apnea. The most common reason is restriction in the nose that reduces nasal airflow resulting in vibration of the tongue and soft palate. The second most common cause, however, is a tongue that is oversized or too wide for a person’s jaw.

How Does The Tongue Become Large?

Most people have never heard that the size of their tongue could be a problem and wonder how a tongue becomes large in the first place. Some tongue enlargement may be genetic—especially if snoring and sleep apnea runs in your family, but it can also result from mouth breathing. If your nose is clogged and you have to open your mouth to breathe at night, the tongue can dry out and become dehydrated. This continuous dehydration results in swelling and progressive enlargement of the tongue over time, worsening the snoring or sleep apnea problem.

When the tongue is too large it can vibrate at the back of the throat (snoring) or block the airway completely (obstructive sleep apnea). This is worsened with mouth breathing, as when the mouth is open the jaw and tongue can fall back and worsen the obstruction.

What Are The Treatments For A Large Tongue?

Tongue enlargement is irreversible, and there are no procedures used to reduce the size of the tongue. However, there are several treatment options to keep the tongue out of the airway at night and reduce symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea.

Positional Therapy: Sleeping in a position on your side and with the head elevated can help prevent the tongue from falling back into the airway while sleeping. A specialized pillow called Medcline can help keep you in this ideal position while you sleep.

Oral Appliance Therapy: Also known as a “mandibular advancement device” is a small custom mouthpiece made by a dentist that is worn while you sleep. The mouthpiece adjusts the lower part of the jaw slightly forward, moving the tongue out of the airway.

CPAP: CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The CPAP machine is connected to tubing that attaches to a mask worn over the nose, or nose and mouth while a person sleeps. The machine delivers pressured air through the mask to push the tongue forward and open the airway.

Inspire: Inspire is an implantable device designed to open the airway during sleep. It works by stimulating the nerve that controls the tongue to gently move it forward and out of the airway during sleep. The user has control over the device using a handheld remote.

Schedule a Consultation

If you snore or are concerned you have sleep apnea, it is important to be evaluated in the office to determine your specific reasons for snoring. An evaluation is done to evaluate for underlying nasal obstruction, an enlarged tongue, and any other sources of snoring to develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Call or securely text us for a consultation at 512-601-0303.

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Posted in: CPAP, Inspire Therapy, Large Tongue, Mouth Breathing, Sleep Apnea, Snoring

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