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By Dr. Huzefa Talib
An anti–snoring device, which dentists believe could cure millions of sufferers by helping them to breathe as they sleep, was launched in Britain recently.

The Zx Device, which can be easily fitted, works by pushing the wearer’s lower jaw forward, keeping their airways open during the night. It can bring important health benefits for snorers and for victims of sleep apnea, a more serious condition in which breathing stops repeatedly for several seconds during sleep.

Forty per cent of adults snore and four in every 100 have sleep apnea. The risk of both increases with age, while men and individuals who are overweight are especially prone to it.

The problem occurs when the throat relaxes during sleep, narrowing the airway. As the snorer breathes, air is forced through a narrowed gap causing fatty tissue at the back of the throat to vibrate and produce a distinctive snoring sound. In sleep apnea, that gap can close completely until the body reacts to the lack of oxygen and prompts the sufferer to inhale sharply or wake up.

Apnea has been linked with serious health problems such as high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease. Apnea sufferers are at greater risk of accidents because they can fall asleep suddenly during the day.

People with serious apnea can resort to surgery, but it frequently has to be repeated as they grow older. Another popular method of controlling snoring involves wearing plaster strips on the nose, but this does not open the throat. This new device rectifies the problem by fractionally moving the lower jaw forward in some cases by as little as a millimeter to keep the throat open throughout the night. It takes only about 15 to 20 minutes to fit.

Dental specialists, who have been trying the device on a limited basis so far, say it requires getting used to and some patients with very severe sleep apnea may still need other therapies such as oxygen at night. They have been impressed by its success, however.

It is an effective non–invasive anti–snoring treatment. Patients agree that they stop snoring and they do feel more rested. The way it works is exactly the same as in First Aid when you pull an unconscious person's chin forward to help them breathe.

There has been an enormous success in relieving snoring in the dozen or so patients who have tried Zx on so far. It is good for snoring but it is even better for sleep apnea, which can lead to daytime sleepiness, morning headaches and poor memory.

The fitting must be done by a dentist, but the patient can be shown how to adjust the device later if necessary. It does not have to be individually made and there is no need for the dentist to take moulds and impressions, thereby cutting down on expense and time.