Whether you have recently watched an infomercial on television for a mouthpiece or if your dentist has suggested that you wear one to stop snoring, you are likely full of a lot of questions.
You want a solution that actually works, but could it really be as simple as wearing an oral device while you sleep?
Considering other options are so invasive it is hard to believe this could even work, right?
Well, as exciting as an anti-snoring device may sound to you right now, it is important to become familiar with the pros and cons of them before making the decision to wear one.
Pros of Wearing a Mouthpiece:
The reason why you hear so much about mouthpieces is because snorers just like you genuinely have a lot of positive things to say about them. It is easy to get excited about these products.
1. Mouthpieces are Effective
The main reason mouthpieces are so popular is because they can be quite effective. Obviously, no product is going to be 100 percent effective for the entire snoring population, but to say that mouthpieces do work is a fair statement.
To understand why they work it is helpful to know where the snoring comes from. In most people, the sound originates between the airway and soft palate. The back of your throat is where you find the uvula, which is responsible for opening and closing the valve between your nasal cavity and mouth. You probably do not realize it, but when you sneeze or swallow the soft palate briefly closes and then reopens.
When you fall asleep all your muscles relax; this includes the uvula. When it relaxes it partially blocks your airway. In this relaxed position, it is able to vibrate against soft tissues in your throat as air is passed through. This vibration is what causes the snoring.
In most snoring cases this area between the soft palate and throat is responsible for snoring, so if the lower jaw can be held forward in an awake position then the soft palate does not vibrate against other tissues. This is what a mouthpiece can do.
So, you are probably wondering if this is the solution to your problem. You can actually do a self-evaluation quite easily. Imagine that you are sleeping, and try to make a loud snoring noise. Now extend your lower jaw as far as you can while doing this. If the sound stops or becomes subtle then your soft palate very well could be the cause of your snoring. In this case, a mouthpiece may be your solution.
Are you wondering why you have a loose soft palate in the first place? Well, there are actually a number of reasons why this muscle loosens. Age, weight, sleep position, smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug and sedative use can all be to blame. It is also important to note that sometimes, snoring is due to physical obstruction, a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils, or unique airway anatomy. In these cases, a mouthpiece is not the answer.
2. Relatively Safe
When used properly, anti-snoring mouthpieces are considered safe. Oral devices were first introduced in the early 80s. Since then numerous studies have been done proving that there are very few concerns regarding safety. Having surgery done poses far more safety risks. Plus, there is no guarantee that the surgery will work. In my opinion, opting for a nonsurgical method is a more favorable decision.
Surgery is an extremely expensive option. Even opting for a professionally-fitted device is quite costly, as it could run for over $1,500, and you have to keep in mind that even a prescribed mouthpiece has to be replaced from time-to-time. This is a huge expense to continually commit to.
Most boil-and-bite mouthpieces that are fitted in the privacy of your own home cost less than $70. Even top-of-the-line ones with thoughtful features and a longer life expectancy are typically well under $200. Snorers often want to make sure a mouthpiece will work for them before buying one of the more advanced products, so they start with a budget-friendly basic option, or they choose one that offers a money back guarantee, so there is no risk of financial loss. Just to give you an idea, here is a cost comparison of various stop snoring remedies:
- Nasal strips, throat sprays, nose cones, pillows, chin straps, herbal supplements – $10+
- Over-the-counter snoring mouthpiece – $40+
- Doctor fitted mouthpiece – $500 – $1,500
- Laser-assisted uvuloplasty – $1,500+
- The Pelican Procedure – $1,500 – $2,200
- Somnoplasty – $2,000 – $3,000
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty – $5,500+
Cons Associated with Mouthpieces:
Although most snorers enjoy a relatively positive experience with anti-snoring appliances, like all solutions, there are also disadvantages to be aware of.
1. Possibility of Misdiagnosis
In most cases, snoring is not considered medically dangerous. However, there are times when the snoring is actually a symptom associated with an underlying medical condition. The most common condition snoring is a symptom of is obstructive sleep apnea, more commonly referred to as OSA. This occurs when the individual actually stops breathing for several seconds because the airway becomes restricted. In an average night, this can occur dozens of times, and every time it does. The brain is deprived of the oxygen it needs.
It is estimated that over 18 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea, but many are undiagnosed. In most cases, the affected individuals will be awakened from their sleep, gasping for air when their airway becomes restricted throughout the night, but they might not even remember the occurrences in the morning.
Sometimes, patients diagnosed with mild to moderate OSA can use a mouthpiece for treatment, under the guidance of a medical professional. It is crucial to not self-diagnose. Only a sleep medical professional can determine the severity of the condition.
2. Must Wear it to Work
Wearing a mouthpiece is a commitment. It is not a large inconvenience to wear one, but you do have to remember to put it in at night and clean it after each use. This also means that it needs to be packed for vacations and business trips. Really, it is just a matter of getting in the habit of wearing it. If you wear it sporadically, it will not become part of your routine, and then it will likely end up in your junk drawer.
3. Side Effects Are Possible
Medical devices typically come with a list of potential side effects; mouthpieces are no different. Most common side effects associated with oral appliances include hypersalivation, dry mouth, and discomfort or mild pain in the jaw and teeth. This is often the result of the product being used incorrectly or the individual having unhealthy gums and teeth to begin with.
It is important to always read the manufacturer’s guideline and warning labels. Understand that all mouthpieces are not the same and many have unique warnings. So, even if you are familiar with the warnings associated with one, you still need to read those provided with a different mouthpiece you may try.
Important Tips to Remember
It is always important to become familiar with the pros and cons of any mouthpiece you are interested in. Here is a recap of the most important points to keep in mind:
- Snoring mouthpieces are considered an inexpensive, safe, and effective solution, in most cases.
- Always discuss your snoring with your doctor to determine if you may have an underlying medical condition.
- Using a mouthpiece is a commitment. For it to be effective you have to make it part of your daily routine.
- Always read the instructions provided by the manufacturer and become familiar with any warnings and possible side effects.