Sleep Apnea is a serious and common disorder that afflicts more than 18 million Americans, with 200,000 new cases emerging each year when diagnosed in men, women, and even children.
Caused when the throat muscles relax and soften, the disorder causes the airway to become blocked during sleep, leading to oxygen deprivation. Depending on the severity of the apnea, it can lead to choking, snoring loudly, and several awakenings (ranging from a handful to a few hundred) during the night, disturbing both the sleeper and their partner.
Not treating sleep apnea can result in dire consequences, among them daytime sleepiness, fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and even death. With so many sufferers in need of a good night’s rest, many solutions have been developed in the attempt to cure snoring. While there is no permanent solution, there are several natural ways to treat sleep apnea ranging from making simple lifestyle changes on your own such as improving diet and adding an exercise regime, to the more radical choice to undergo invasive surgery. Utilizing medical devices is another intervention to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. One such device is a mouth guard. Worn at night, a mouth guard is an oral appliance customized to fit your mouth specifications with a mold by a dentist or orthodontist. Though not as widely used as CPAP machines, mouth guards are typically a less expensive and simpler solution.
A mouth guard is used to treat those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. The more severe your case of apnea, the less a mouthguard will be a solution – in these cases the CPAP or APAP/BiPap machine and position pillow would be more beneficial. Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common form of apnea disorder. When we sleep, our throat muscles relax and this softening of the tissue causes airway blockages from snoring. This leads to periodic stops in breathing. A mouth guard will work by pushing the jaw forward and reposition the tongue, expanding the airways and reducing air resistance, thus allowing a person to breathe properly while asleep.
There are a number of advantages to using a mouth guard. In addition to being a non invasive alternative to surgery, a mouth guard is easier to use than a CPAP machine, and in short, these much more cost effective appliances do work in treating snoring.
Much of the time, a CPAP machine is the foremost therapy many physicians recommend to patients. However, in addition to being loud, the CPAP is cumbersome and takes a lot of getting used to wearing the mask. In order to be effective, the mask must be worn at all times during sleep – including away from home. A mouth guard, being smaller, is therefore easier to clean than the mask and its tubing, and is much more portable when traveling.
Users are more compliant wearing a mouth guard since it is compact, unobtrusive, and silent. Not only is this soundless appliance more pleasant to the user, its also pleasant for bed partners in uninterrupting their own sleep cycles.
Additionally, a mouth guard is more economically effective, as it saves on energy costs, whereas a CPAP machine runs on electricity. Since the mouth guard is customized, the fit is much more comfortable than a one size “fits all” mask, and the appliance can be adjusted as needed.
As another positive side effect, a mouth guard will help prevent teeth grinding in your sleep since it relieves jaw pressure.
Some negative side effects of utilizing a mouth guard include soreness, dry mouth, a build up of saliva, or nausea.There is potential to even change or damage a person’s jaw structure, teeth, mouth, and develop TMJ pain, a form of arthritis in the jaw. In order for any positive results to take place, the device must be worn with regularity every night.
While over the counter devices are available, these reasons are why it is vitally important to get custom fitted for a dental mouthguard, and to have regular appointments to ensure the device continues to fit properly. A mouthguard will only help those with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Those with more severe cases will need another approach to help their apnea, either with a CPAP machine or surgery.
The biggest drawback in deciding to use a mouthguard is that a severe case of sleep apnea may go undiagnosed or untreated. It is in your best interest to consult a certified sleep medicine physician before purchasing and using an oral appliance to determine what kind of apnea is occurring. A person should never self diagnose sleep apnea.
The Best Mouth Guards
Getting a customized mouth guard is the best way to receive a device fit to your specifications. However, if this is not an option there are several ready made devices on the market available for purchase over the counter.
VitalSleep Mouthpiece for Snoring
The VitalSleep is a mandibular advancement device (MAD). MAD are more widely used devices that lift the jaw forward by snapping two seperate pieces over the upper and lower dental arches. Hinges connect these two pieces, and allows the mouth to open and close 25 degrees. It is similar to the mouth guards used in sports or retainers. MADs are flexible and adjustable for a better fit for each individual.
The device is available in two sizes, regular and small, and comes with a tool to make adjustments. These adjustments are important for comfort and usability, something that sets the VitalSleep apart from other mouth guards. It can be tedious making these adjustments however.
It is made in the USA with medical-grade, BPA-free materials, and FDA approved. The company offers a money back guarantee within 60 days if the VitalSleep is not to your liking, or free replacements for up to a year. The price is relatively low cost for one device.
The VitalSleep needs to be cleaned and stored properly after each use, and is durable enough to last up to 2 years with this care.
Good Morning Snore Solution
This particular device is unique in the world of mouth guards. The Good Morning Snore Solution does not keep the jaw open after being inserted, instead it uses tongue stabilization. Tongue stabilization is less common than MAD, and utilizes a splint to hold the tongue in place, keeping the airways open. Some people find this more comfortable than keeping the jaw open for extended periods of time when using a MAD.
The Good Morning device will need to be cared for with cold water and a cleaning solution. With this care it should last a year. The device can be worn in conjunction with dentures or in lieu of a night guard. The product is made from FDA approved materials and is BHA and BPA free. Side effects of use can include excessive saliva, a tender tongue, and breathing issues if you have sinus problems or a cold. It is recommended to consult a doctor before use.
There is a 30 day money back guarantee if the product is not to your satisfaction, The Good Morning device is a higher priced mouth guard than the others on this list.
SleepTight Snoring Mouth Guard
This particular mouth guard was designed by a dentist and has been approved by the FDA for use in preventing snoring. Made with non BPA materials, the SleepTight is a MAD, lowering the jaw forward to open the airway during sleep and prevent snoring. The moldable guard is one piece with pre-fitted teeth imprints and an opening for the tongue. It is not a hinged device.
The Sleep Tight should last six months and up to two years; its lifespan is determined by care and teeth grinding or clenching during sleep. To clean the guard, mild antibacterial soap must be used along with a toothbrush to gently scrub away any debris. It can be used with some dentures, however a dentist should be consulted prior to use. Some dry mouth or excessive saliva can be experienced.
It is available for purchase at a low price for a trial period, and this cost cannot be refunded after the period expires, after which the full price will be charged to the consumer.
The ZQuiet is another mouthguard designed by a dentist to help prevent snoring. A MAD, the ZQuiet is a soft mouthguard made from BPA and latex free materials in compliance with FDA medical standards. The ZQuiet is a MAD that does not need to be fitted as it is ready to use out of the box, and provides maximum flexibility and comfort while sleeping. The softness of the construction material allows for trimming with nail scissors if necessary.
It has what the company calls “living hinge” technology, moving the lower jaw forward while allowing for the freedom of natural mouth movements and regular breathing through the nose and mouth. The ZQuiet is designed to work right away, with immediate results.
There are two sizes to choose from, and a free 30 day trial to test out if the ZQuiet is the right device for you. While the company has a specially formulated cleaning solution in order to care for the mouthguard, it is still recommended to replace it every 6 months. At a mid level, affordable price point, it may be worth the trial period or purchasing several at once.
The ZQuiet cannot be used with full dentures, or if the dentures used are for one of the six front teeth, since the ZQuiet uses these in its movements during sleep.