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The Dangers of Using a Mouth Guard to Prevent Snoring
We all snore from time to time but, for some people, it becomes a serious problem.
What many people do not realize is that frequent snoring could be more than just a nuisance – it could be an indication of a serious problem.
If you or your partner suffer from problem snoring you may be considering an anti-snoring mouth guard as a solution.
Stop snoring devices come in a variety of shapes and forms and many of them are backed by physician recommendations.
Before you start using a snoring mouthpiece, however, take the time to discover the true reason for your snoring – if you don’t, you could be putting yourself at risk for some serious side effects or complications.
Understanding Why You Snore
In most cases, snoring is caused by the narrowing of the airway during sleep.
As your airway narrows, air flowing through the passageway causes the tissues in your throat to vibrate – this is what produces the sound.
Though this is how snoring works in most cases, there are some different things which can cause the airway to narrow, thus leading you to snore.
Something as simple as sleeping in a particular position can cause you to snore or it could be something more serious.
For example, sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous breathing disorder which affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
There are three different types of sleep apnea but the most common type is caused by the collapse of the soft tissue in the back of the throat which obstructs the airway during sleep.
Another potential cause for your snoring is a condition called temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ.
This condition occurs when the joint connecting the upper and lower jaw fails to work properly, causing a misalignment which could affect the tissues in your throat.
Snoring can also be caused by enlarged tonsils, an elongated soft palate, a relaxed tongue, or nasal congestion. Consuming alcohol before bed or using tobacco products could also cause you to snore.
Sleep Apnea vs. Snoring
If you suffer from problem snoring, there is at least a 35% chance that you have some form of sleep apnea. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder in which the patient experiences one or more pauses in breathing during sleep.
These pauses may last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes and they could occur as much as 30 times per hour throughout the course of the night.
Snoring is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea, though many people affected by this disorder mistakenly assume that their snoring is benign.
This is why sleep apnea, as common as it is, frequently goes undiagnosed until it causes a more serious problem which prompts the patient to talk to their physician.
There are three different types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – This is the most common type of sleep apnea and it occurs when the muscles in the throat relax during sleep, allowing the soft palate to collapse and obstruct the airway.
Central Sleep Apnea – A less common type of sleep apnea, this type occurs when the brain fails to send the right signals to the muscles responsible for regulating your breathing during sleep.
Mixed Sleep Apnea – This type of sleep apnea occurs as a result of both problems – relaxed muscles in the airway and the brain’s failure to send the right signals.
Though snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea, there are other signs to look for. Excessive daytime sleepiness and difficulty concentrating during the day are two common symptoms of sleep apnea.
People suffering from sleep apnea may also feel irritable or depressed – they may also experience mood swings or changes in personality.
All of these symptoms can be correlated with low-quality sleep which is one of the biggest problems associated with sleep apnea.
While sleep apnea is a chronic condition that can become dangerous, snoring in and of itself generally isn’t a serious issue.
Snoring that isn’t harmful to the patient is usually referred to as “benign” snoring.
This type of snoring is influenced by some factors including age, weight, physical fitness, anatomy, sleep posture, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, and medications.
Common Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
If you suspect that you are suffering from sleep apnea, it is important that you speak to your physician immediately.
Your doctor will perform a thorough physical exam and medical history as well as an evaluation of your symptoms.
He or she may also recommend a sleep study to identify any sleep problems – if sleep problems are evident, he may also recommend a home sleep test using a portable monitor to record your blood oxygen levels, the amount of air flowing through your nose, your heart rate, and your chest movements during sleep.
In the event that your doctor diagnoses you with sleep apnea, you have a few treatment options to choose from. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
This device is designed to maintain continuous positive pressure to ensure that the airway remains open during sleep.
In most cases, CPAP machines are very effective in treating sleep apnea, though many people find them uncomfortable to wear or difficult to sleep in.
In cases of very mild sleep apnea, your physician may just recommend that you make some changes to your lifestyle as a treatment option.
Reducing your alcohol consumption and tobacco usage may help to reduce your breathing problems – it might also help for you to start sleeping on your side instead of your back.
For people who are overweight or obese, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is very important for the treatment of sleep apnea.
Other changes that might be helpful include avoiding medications that make you sleepy, using nasal spray or allergy medicines to reduce nasal congestion, and increasing your daily activity level.
If you cannot tolerate a CPAP machine or if lifestyle changes are not enough to manage your sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend another treatment option – a sleep apnea mouth guard.
Sleep apnea mouth guards are different from traditional anti-snoring mouthpieces and they can only be prescribed by a doctor or dentist.
This kind of mouth guard can be an effective treatment for mild sleep apnea and, in treating the sleep apnea, may reduce snoring as well.
Traditional anti-snoring mouthpieces like tongue stabilization devices (TSDs) and mandibular advancement devices (MADs) are not the same as sleep apnea mouthpieces and they cannot be used interchangeably.
A sleep apnea mouth guard must be prescribed by a doctor – you should not purchase one online or try to use another kind of mouth guard to self-treat your condition.
Are Snoring Mouth Guards Really That Dangerous?
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, prescription mouth guards can be an effective treatment for mild sleep apnea when they are properly fitted.
Sports guards, mouth guards, and anti-snoring mouthpieces, on the other hand, are not intended for the treatment of sleep apnea. If you suffer from serious sleep apnea, wearing a traditional anti-snoring mouth guard at night could actually be very dangerous for you.
Stop snoring devices are generally designed to prevent the airway from collapsing during sleep and they do so by stabilizing the jaw and the tongue.
These devices typically consist of both an upper and a lower portion which ends up filling most of the mouth. Some mouth guards have air holes in them, but many do not – this kind of mouth guard can actually make your nighttime breathing problems worse if you suffer from sleep apnea.
Another reason why snoring mouth guards might be dangerous for sleep apnea is because they need to be custom-fit in order to work properly.
If you purchase a generic snoring mouthpiece online or buy a mouth guard from the drug store, it may not fit your mouth properly and it could further obstruct your breathing.
If you do choose to use a mouthpiece to treat your sleep apnea, do not use an anti-snoring mouthpiece – contact your doctor to get a prescription for a specialized sleep apnea mouthpiece that can be custom-fit to your mouth.
Side Effects of Oral Snoring Appliances
If you do not suffer from sleep apnea but you are looking for a way to reduce your problem snoring, an oral appliance might be a good solution.
Before you choose an oral appliance to stop your problem snoring, however, it is very important that you consider the potential side effects and complications of using one of these devices.
The safety of these devices is impacted by the underlying cause of your snoring. For example, if you suffer from TMJ, a device that alters the position of your upper and lower jaw could make your condition worse.
If you suffer from bruxism, or teeth grinding, wearing an oral appliance during sleep could be helpful in preventing tooth wear but it might actually make you grind your teeth more which could lead to facial joint damage.
In some cases, patients who wear oral appliances experience gum and tooth pain resulting from the device pressing against the gum tissue. This is another reason why it is very important to choose a custom-fitted device.
Dry mouth is another potential side effect of sleep apnea mouth guards, especially if you also suffer from nasal congestion. Other side effects of oral appliances may be correlated with the quality of the product. Low-quality products made with non-BPA-free plastics can be very dangerous.
BPA has been linked to particular types of cancer, neurological deficits, and thyroid problems. Prefabricated mouth guards which do not offer custom-fit options can introduce problems that did not exist previously by altering the position of your jaws.
My Top Pick to Stop Snoring: The VitalSleep Mouthpiece
If you are looking for a high-quality mouth guard to stop your problem snoring, my recommendation is the VitalSleep mouthpiece.
The VitalSleep is a BPA-free and FDA-cleared mandibular advancement device. Not only is this mouthpiece proven to stop snoring, but it offers the greatest customizability on the market.
This device comes in two different sizes – one for men and one for women – and it can be fitted using the boil and bite method.
After the device has been fit to your mouth you can adjust it even further with up to seven micro-adjustments, customizing the degree of mandibular advancement.
Not only is the VitalSleep one of the most customizable MADs on the market, but it is highly affordable as well. Priced at just $59.95, this mouth guard is much cheaper than what you would get with a prescription from your doctor.
Best of all, VitalSleep offers a 30-day money back guarantee as well as free replacements for one year and free size exchanges.
VitalSleep users love the flexible frame design which ensures maximum comfort as well as side-to-side movement which reduces joint pain and jaw strain.
This product also comes with a 1-year warranty.
The Bottom Line
If snoring is a problem for you or your partner, an anti-snoring mouthpiece is a great option to consider. Before you go out and buy one, however, it is very important that you do your research to determine whether it is really the best option.
For benign snoring, anti-snoring mouth guards are generally safe and highly effective.
If your snoring is caused by an underlying health problem, however, using a mouth guard or choosing the wrong model could lead to serious side effects or complications.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can be disguised as simple snoring but using an anti-snoring appliance to treat sleep apnea can be very dangerous. Self-treating a condition like obstructive sleep apnea is never a good idea.
My advice to you is to consult your doctor to determine the cause of your snoring before you settle on a treatment option.
If your doctor is able to confirm that your snoring is not caused by sleep apnea you can take advantage of my comparison chart to compare and contrast your options as you make your decision.