Scoring my Snoring

May Men's Room Column
0520 Wilma Men's Room

After cementing my latest two crowns into place, my dentist switched off the light that had blazed into my mouth for 30 minutes.

“Do you snore?” he said.

We usually make small talk about dogs or music or my repeated request for a Carolina blue tooth. Never snoring. I’m relaxed about dental visits, considering that I’ve had about 50,000 of them, but I didn’t think I’d taken to dozing off amid the whirring drills and groaning buffers.

Do I snore?

“Not that I know of,” I said.

I added that I sleep alone, which I meant only to explain that I couldn’t logically know whether I snore, but it came out as a sad admission about my romantic situation, which is to say, I don’t have one. Various women have given me specific reasons why they won’t overnight with me, and snoring isn’t on their long lists.

“I noticed you have an enlarged pharyngopalatine arch,” he said. “Sometimes, that can lead to a blockage of the air passage and cause snoring.”

He might not have said pharyngopalatine arch. All I heard was some long, unfamiliar, dental word, so I looked up the anatomy of the mouth and saw that kind of arch in there, at the back, near where my tonsils used to be.

I think he was really saying – in a tactful, professional way – that I have a fat tongue, which is probably how they say it in dental school with no patients around to get hurt feelings. And, if that indeed was his assessment, he was right. My tongue is fat: thick and wide, like a platypus in my mouth.

“You should get checked for sleep apnea,” the dentist said. “It could be serious. It’s associated with heart disease and stroke.”

“I just came in for a couple of crowns,” I wanted to tell him. “Now, I’ve got to worry about disability and potential death? I have no idea how to lose weight in my tongue.”

That snoring question would keep me awake. With nobody around to help, I thought about asking my neighbor if he heard me snoring through my walls, out my window, into his window, and through his walls. But he has a cocktail or three every night, so he’s not hearing anything after 10 p.m. And, I couldn’t go to the doctor. I’d burned through my health savings paying the dentist for those crowns and the snore worry.

I ended up downloading an app that claims it can track my sleeping and tell me whether I snore – and if so, how badly. Every night, the app shows me an ad for some “anti-snoring device,” usually a nose clamp or a wedge of plastic that’s supposed to prop open my jaws. In exchange, I get a free “session,” during which the app records me while I sleep. The next morning, I have a Snore Score and an audio of my night’s slumber, with ratings that range from Quiet to Epic.

I listen. At the 3:10 a.m. mark, I hear what sounds like an out-of-shape runner gasping after a sprint. At 4:26, a grumbling bear shows up. At 5:41, somebody gargles for a long, long time. At 6:21, some dude cuts loose with a fireplace bellows.

I have my answer: Strangers and animals wander into my bedroom every night and make weird noises. But, snore? Me? Never.

Tim Bass is coordinator of UNCW’s bachelor of fine arts program in creative writing.

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to

Click here to read the rest of the May WILMA digital issue.

Categories: Culture