What are the pros and cons of using a mouthguard for sleep apnea?

What are the pros and cons of using a mouthguard for sleep apnea?

January 1, 2024

If you get diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend trying a sleep apnea mouthguard as treatment. A custom-fitted mouthguard-like appliance can provide an effective, non-invasive solution that slows your lower jaw to prevent airway collapse. But along with distinct potential advantages over cumbersome CPAP, mouthguards come with some drawbacks to weigh based on your needs and preferences. Learn more below regarding the key benefits and disadvantages of using this popular oral appliance therapy.

How can a mouthguard improve sleep apnea?

A sleep apnea mouthguard functions essentially as a retainer with custom-molded upper and lower trays fitting your unique bite/dental anatomy. During sleep, the device gently shifts your lower jaw forward from your usual bite position. This protrusion opens up the airway space behind the tongue that narrows and blocks airflow when jaw/throat muscles overly relax in slumber. It also prevents the tongue and soft tissues of the throat from collapsing into the air passage when breathing in.

This forward traction of a mouthguard thus eliminates obstruction that triggers decreased oxygen and fractured breathing, known as apneas or hypopneas. Rather than sleeping through cycles of oxygen loss and gasping awake to breathe, you achieve uninterrupted airflow all night. It supplies your heart and organs with steady oxygen for normal restorative sleep rather than the detrimental sleep deprivation caused by untreated apnea over time.

What are the benefits of mouthguard sleep apnea therapy?

Reasons to consider a customized sleep apnea treatment near me for obstructive sleep apnea include:

Non-Invasive Treatment – Using an oral device avoids medical risks or recovery periods of more invasive surgical interventions on throat anatomy.

Travel Convenience – The compact plastic mouth trays are infinitely more portable and travel-friendly than bulky lugging CPAP machines, including water chambers, face masks, tubing, etc.

Comfort – Once acclimated to the mouthguard, which usually occurs within days to several weeks, many find oral devices surprisingly comfortable and non-intrusive relative to cumbersome CPAP masks that irritate facial skin and make some feel claustrophobic. Custom-fitted mouthguards cause little sensation while asleep.

Clinical Efficacy – Solid medical research, including randomized controlled trials, substantiates the effectiveness of mandibular advancement devices for treating mild through moderately severe sleep apnea cases. For more profound cases, CPAP usually works better. However, within apnea severity limitations and assuming proper custom device fitting, mouthguards significantly decrease apneas and daytime sleepiness. This efficacy emanates from effectively modifying anatomy and preventing airway collapse through anterior jaw positioning.

Ask your sleep specialist whether mouthguard therapy suits your apnea severity and desired treatment experience.

What are the disadvantages of employing a sleep apnea mouthguard?

Despite advantages over disruptive PAP therapy for some sleep apnea near you, mouthguards also come with potential drawbacks:

Excess Salivation – Some users experience temporarily increased saliva flow and slight swallowing difficulties from the presence of an oral device, requiring acclimation before dissipating for most.

Tooth, Jaw, or Bite Pain – In limited cases, dental soreness or bite misalignment requiring dental adjustments emerges during the acclimation period or later with device wear over months/years. This usually gets addressed through minor bite adjustments or corrected with discontinued usage if non-resolving.

Cumbersome Fitting Process – The initial dental impressions and multiple short-term follow-ups to finalize the ideal fit result in a much lengthier, costlier fitting than simply buying an over-the-counter anti-snoring guard. However, customization proves necessary for therapeutic efficacy and dental health safety with long-term wear.

Potential Long-Term Damage Risk – Some but not all data suggest links between chronic wear, increased tooth loosening/loss risk, and altered jaw alignment/function over decades. However, no definitive conclusions exist establishing duration correlations or bite deterioration causes – whether from aging, mouthguard usage, or both. Still, this theoretical risk warrants consideration and screening.

If side effects like jaw pain or inefficacy arise or linger, then trying an alternative treatment usually makes sense after attempting and giving a fair trial to the mouthguard.

How comfortable are sleep apnea mouthguards?

Comfort varies based on mouthguard style – from barely noticeable slim, flexible varieties allowing some lateral and anterior-posterior jaw movement to larger, more rigid acrylic options limiting mobility. Given custom molding to each person’s dental and bite anatomy plus an initial break-in period for acclimating, most users attain sufficient comfort for consistent nightly use. Unlike bulky CPAP masks, they cause little or no skin irritation.

Work with your sleep medicine dentist and doctor to select an appliance using suitable materials and appropriate protrusion titration to minimize foreign body awareness and strain. They also fine-tune fit and adjustments over early follow-ups to maximize ease. Discuss any bothersome issues immediately rather than discontinuing wear to see if simple tweaks provide relief. But mouthguards unsuitable for your needs or intolerances may warrant switching treatment modalities if discomfort persists despite troubleshooting.

Are custom mouthguards better for sleep apnea?

Undoubtedly, custom-fabricated mouthguards prove superior to cheap, ill-fitting anti-snoring guards sold over the counter as apnea remedies. Each person’s dental characteristics and prescribed ideal protrusion differ, so only custom-made oral appliances ensure a precise, comfortable fit. Dentists make dental stone impressions and bites, helping labs fabricate oral devices accommodating your unique anatomy, bite strength, and advancement requirements per your sleep test results and physician recommendations.

Inadequately fitting “one-size-fits-all” guards often slide around uncomfortably between teeth, facilitating teeth shifting or gum irritation. And without controlled calibration, such devices may also over-protrude the jaw, damaging TMJ joints or bite alignment. Always obtain custom mouthguard sleep medicine options through accredited dentists and sleep centers rather than attempting do-it-yourself anti-snoring aids improperly marketed for actual sleep apnea.

Finally, discuss with your doctor and dentist whether mouthguard therapy suits your sleep apnea. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks thoughtfully for your needs. If opting to pursue custom oral devices, ensure working with seasoned TMJ and sleep specialty dentists to minimize complications. Convenient Mesa, AZ, sleep services from Taylor made Sleep Services And Consulting LLC – AZ provide integrated support navigating sleep disorder diagnoses and effective, well-tolerated treatment decisions tailored for restful nights and vibrant daytime health. Contact my office to explore advanced sleep solutions further!

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