By Dr. John White, owner of Smiles by White

When restful sleep turns into noisy snoring, there usually is not cause for alarm. But for the more than 18 million Americans who suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, (loud snoring is a major symptom), it can deprive you of oxygen and negatively affect your overall health. And it not only strikes adults, but there also is a growing recognition of OSA among children.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is a narrowing or collapse of throat tissue during sleep, causing blood-oxygen levels to plummet sometimes up to 35 percent. This results in involuntary cessation of breathing while sleeping, which can happen hundreds of times a night. In addition to causing you to be sleepy during the day, left untreated it can cause a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and memory loss.

Apnea can be treated with surgery, positive airway pressure devices, such as a CPAP machine, or a variety of oral appliances.

Oral appliances are increasing in popularity as an effective first line of treatment because they are easy to wear and are comfortable. They hold the jaws apart and keep the lower jaw forward to open the airway and prevent the tongue and muscles in the upper airway from blocking the airway while sleeping.

There are more than 100 different oral appliances that are FDA-approved for the treatment of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, so consult with an orthodontist or dentist to find the one that works best for you.