What’s the Difference Between OTC and Dentist-Fitted Snoring Mouth Guards

somnodentIf you have actually talked to your dentist about having a snoring mouthpiece fitted and have also browsed the selection of them available over-the-counter then you know that there is a huge price difference between the two.

This may lead you to believe that store bought products may not work.

After all, could a device this much less expensive even compete with the others?

Alternately, you may simply feel the professionally fitted one is probably a rip off. After all, the medical industry and professionals employed within need to make money.

Then, of course, if you are like most, you just do not know what to think.

If you have never worn one before then they may all look the same to you, which likely has left you with a lot of questions. After reading this comparison you should have a much better understanding of the similarities and differences.

Evaluating the Fit

The fit is going to be one of the most significant differences between an over-the-counter and professionally-fitted device. Most store bought varieties utilize a boil-and-bite technique that you perform right at home. This is an easy process that barely takes any time out of your day to do.

It involves boiling water and then submerging the device  for a specified amount of time to soften the material. You insert it in your mouth when it cools to a soft temperature and bite down while extending your jaw forward. It then gets placed in cold water to speed up the hardening process. The result is a mouth guard that is fairly nicely fitted to your mouth.

There are exceptions to this though. Not all MADS use a boil-and-bite technology. ProSnore II and SleepPro Custom are two good examples. The manufactures of these devices send you a dental impression kit. You return it to them and your stop snoring mouthpiece is made in a laboratory, and then sent back to you.

Professionally-fitted prevent snoring mouth guards do sometimes use the boil-and-bite technique, as well. However, in most cases, the dentist obtains a custom impression of your mouth using dental trays. These are sent to a lab, and returned to the dentist. When you pick your device up, the oral appliance is checked for a proper fit. Sometimes, further adjustments need to be made.

Adjustability Capabilities

Some are under the impression that a professionally-fitted mouthguard must be purchase to have the ability to make adjustments. This is actually not true. If you are not familiar with these products, you may be wondering what you would actually be adjusting in the first place.

Simply put, having the power to make small incremental adjustments allows you to advance your lower jaw even further. Even a couple millimeters can make a huge difference in whether your airway remains fully clear of obstruction, or not.

Almost all mouthpieces fitted professionally will offer some level of adjustability. There are also some OTC varieties that do, as well.

Average Life Expectancy

For the most part, a prescription oral appliance will have a longer life expectancy than a store bought model. Over-the-counter devices have a life expectancy of 3 to 24 months. Professionally-fitted ones can last as long as five years, but most are recommended to be replaced every couple of years.

In both cases, the life expectancy is often dictated by a couple of factors. First, a product worn nightly will need to be replaced sooner than one worn sporadically. Also, teeth grinding will play a huge role in longevity, too.

The Effect on Your Wallet

priceAs mentioned earlier, professionally-fitted devices are more expensive. You may actually be surprised at how varied the prices are. An over-the-counter oral appliance will cost between $35 and $200.

If you have one professionally-fitted, the initial consultation and exam will typically run $300 to $500. Plus, the device will cost between $1,200 and $2,000. The price does not stop there though.

You have to return for adjustments that will further dent your wallet about $100 each time. In the first six months it is not uncommon to need three adjustments. Do not forget it will need to be replaced eventually, too. It should be noted that some insurance may help to offset these costs, but this will depend on your coverage and deductible.

Why Are OTC Mouthpieces Criticized?

You may have heard a little criticism about OTC devices from people in the medical industry. There are some professionals that bring up a valid point regarding patient safety.

They say that they are concerned for their patients using such devices without being monitored. Others simply unwelcome the devices because they lose out on money when patients go with the less expensive, OTC route.

Dr. Lydia Sosenko

Dr. Lydia Sosenko

Dr. Lydia Sosenko released a podcast about this controversy in May 2012. Sosenko happens to sell oral appliances.

The podcast featured Dr. Gail Demko, a sleep apnea expert. Her key point was this:

“There is a dentist that is watching the patients for side effects. Custom fitted devices fit snugly on the teeth and don’t loosen up in the mouth. They don’t fall out and end up in the bed two or three times a night. They are easy for the patient to adjust, they are not just one piece. They are comfortable and don’t cut into the gums. They don’t torque the teeth. They put pressure on all of the teeth instead of just one. And they are not put in the mouth of a patient whose not a good candidate.”

You really cannot argue a couple other points she makes, as well.

The fact that a dentist is not watching for side effects can be a concern.

Second, it is troublesome that some individuals may wear an OTC device when their snoring is actually resulted from an underlying medical condition.

However, this is why I have stated several times throughout my site that you should speak with your medical care provider, dentist, or sleep specialist to determine if a mouthpiece is the right option for you.

This is especially important if you think there is even a chance you could have sleep apnea.

In  video below Dr. Sosenko offers her own criticism of OTC mouth guards. Once again, some valid points are made but do not necessarily apply to all OTC devices, only a select few poorly designed ones that are usually (not always) the cheapest available.

That being said, the other arguments she had could be debated. Plus, she grouped all mouth guards under one general classification, when many do have unique features that distinguish them from others.

Which is the Better Option?

questionThere really is not a cut-and-dry answer here. There is no denying that there is a high probability of a positive experience with a professionally fitted device.

You have the device customized to your mouth in a lab, and then you are monitored. Plus, the product is adjusted professionally, as needed. However, there is a hefty price tag that comes along with this product.

There are some really fantastic mouthguards that can be ordered online, and they will save you a ton of money. As a snorer myself, below are a few characteristics that I personally look for when purchasing a device:

  • Customization – The better a product fits the more comfortable and effective it will be. Those that utilize a boil-and-bite technique are great, but you should also consider the nouthguard that gets made in a lab after you send in the impression of your mouth. They do cost a little more though, and you have to be prepared to wait a few weeks for the final product.
  • Adjustability – Look for a product that can be adjusted. Some have bands while others simply snap into place. There are also some mouthpieces that come with a tool to use to make small adjustments.
  • Air Hole – If you breathe through your mouth while you are sleeping it is important to choose a product with a breathing hole at the front that is large enough to allow air to flow freely.
  • Material – Comfort is not only reliant on the fit. The material plays a huge role, as well. It should be a soft rubber material that won’t irritate the gums. It is also important to make sure the material has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. You do not want to wear a device several hours per night made from cheap plastic, and manufactured with harmful chemicals.

Look for one that has the most positive characteristics, without going over your budget. There are dozens of fantastic products available that will not break the bank. This comparison chart should help.

Special Considerations

Anti snoring mouthpieces purchased OTC should never be used to treat a case of obstructive sleep apnea that has not been professionally diagnosed.

If you even think there is a chance that you have a sleeping disorder or a medical condition, including OTC, always consult your doctor first. You may be directed to a sleep medicine specialist to be evaluated.

Also, if you have loose teeth, gum disease, TMJ, or any other oral condition, consult with your dentist before attempting to wear a snoring mouth guard.

Trying to decide which product to buy can be challenging. As a snorer myself I have reviewed several mouthpieces and created a comparison chart based on my firsthand experiences with them.