Snoring and sleep apnea are closely related problems, but they’re not exactly the same. The two conditions have different causes, diagnostic tests, and treatments. While both can be treated with special mouthpieces, it’s important to use the proper device based on which condition you have. Snoring and sleep apnea mouthpieces can both be very successful, but they’ll only work if you choose the right one.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing throughout the night. Most people with sleep apnea snore, but it’s a more complex and serious issue than just snoring on its own.
When you have sleep apnea, the tissues in your throat collapse and block your airway, preventing you from breathing. Then, your brain forces you to wake up so that you regain muscle tone in your throat and open up your airway. You’ll suddenly gasp for breath, then fall back asleep again and repeat the cycle. Some people with sleep apnea wake up hundreds of times every night, but they don’t remember it.
Like sleep apnea, snoring is caused by the tissues in the mouth and throat collapsing.
However, the tissues don’t completely block your airway and stop you from breathing. Instead, they cover your airway just enough that you have to forcefully breathe in to get enough oxygen. As this happens, the tissues vibrate against each other, which is what creates the sound of snoring. Snoring is the most common sign of sleep apnea, but most people who snore don’t have sleep apnea.
The Main Difference Between Sleep Apnea and Snoring
If you snore regularly, you may want to talk to your doctor about doing a sleep study to check for sleep apnea. The two disorders have many common signs and symptoms, and sleep apnea is often undiagnosed. However, snoring and sleep apnea are not the same thing, and there are some key differences to be aware of.
How Do Snoring Mouthpieces Work?
Most snoring mouthpieces work by adjusting the mouth and jaw to open the airway and prevent the tissues from excessively relaxing and vibrating. A mandibular advancement device, one of the most popular snoring mouthpieces, pulls the lower jaw forward slightly, which increases the amount of open space in throat. It also engages the muscles in the area, which strengthens them and prevents them from collapsing.
Tongue retaining devices are another good option. These mouthpieces include a small suction cup and two wings. The suction cup attaches to the tip of your tongue and pulls it forward while the wings rest on the inside of your lips. Snoring often is caused by the tongue collapsing over the airway, and tongue stabilizing devices stop this from happening.
Pros and Cons of Snoring Mouthpieces
Snoring mouthpieces are among the easiest snoring treatments. They’re inexpensive compared to snoring surgeries, and they’re small and easily portable. You don’t have to make any major changes to your lifestyle or your sleeping routine to use a snoring mouthpiece. In most cases, they make at least a slight improvement to the snoring problem. There aren’t any risks of harmful side effects, and they start working the first night you use them.
The biggest disadvantage of a snoring mouthpiece is that they can be difficult to adjust to. Some people experience problems like dry mouth or jaw pain in the first few days or weeks of using the mouthpiece, and some people can’t adjust to them at all. The other issue is that snoring mouthpieces must be worn every night. Unlike some snoring treatments, they don’t offer a permanent solution. They only stop your snoring for as long as you wear them.
How Do Oral Appliances for Sleep Apnea Work?
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP machine. CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, provides a steady supply of oxygen through your nose or mouth, which keeps your airway open and helps you breathe while you sleep. The machine includes a box that pressurizes the air, a tube that the air travels through, and a mask that you attach to your face. Some CPAP masks only cover the nose, and others cover the nose and mouth.
Some sleep apnea patients use dental appliances instead of CPAP machines. These appliances usually work like mandibular advancement devices. There are different brands and technologies, but the mouthpieces usually look like standard mouth guards and are designed to hold the lower jaw forward, which stops the tissues from blocking the airway.
Pros and Cons of Oral Appliances
CPAP machines have a very high success rate. The technology works well for almost everyone with sleep apnea. Patients usually get better, deeper sleep without waking up frequently throughout the night. The machines are portable and easy to use. However, many people have trouble sleeping with a mask on their face. CPAP machines can also cause dry mouth and throat irritation, and the straps on the mask may cause some skin irritation.
Other dental appliances for sleep apnea may be less claustrophobic and easier to adjust to. Like snoring mouthpieces, though, they sometimes cause jaw tension and dry mouth, and they don’t permanently fix the problem.
The Main Differences Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea Mouthpieces
Snoring and sleep apnea mouthpieces have some similarities, but overall, they’re two completely different devices. Here are three of the most important differences:
Purpose of the Mouthpiece
Snoring mouthpieces are designed to stop the tissues in the mouth from collapsing, either by adjusting the position of the mouth or by engaging the muscles to keep the tissues rigid. Sleep apnea mouthpieces, on the other hand, are designed to help you get more oxygen while you sleep. CPAP machines actually provide the oxygen with a tube and mask, and sleep apnea mouthpieces hold your airway open to allow you to breathe deeper on your own.
Obtaining the Mouthpiece
A dentist or ENT may give you helpful advice on buying a snoring mouthpiece, but anyone can buy these mouthpieces for themselves. You can buy a snoring mouthpiece online and have it delivered to your home without a prescription, and you can mold it to your mouth yourself if necessary.
Typically, sleep apnea mouthpieces require a prescription and a special fitting from a medical professional. This is because sleep apnea is considered to be a more dangerous health concern than regular snoring, so assistance from a sleep specialist, ENT, dentist, or other professional is necessary.
Durability of the Mouthpiece
Since sleep apnea mouthpieces are custom-made and usually more expensive, they tend to be more durable than standard snoring mouthpieces.
Snoring mouthpieces are designed to last from a few months to a couple of years at most, but sleep apnea mouthpieces can last for much longer without wearing down.
How Do You Know Which Device Will Work for You?
If you have a snoring problem, you should visit a sleep specialist to make sure you don’t have sleep apnea. It can be difficult or impossible to detect the disorder in yourself, so getting a sleep study done is important. Your doctor will recommend treatments for sleep apnea if you have the condition. If you don’t have sleep apnea, you should look for a standard snoring mouthpiece.
Consulting with a doctor about snoring mouthpieces can be valuable even if you don’t have sleep apnea. They can make recommendations based on the cause of your snoring, and they can give you advice on how to use the mouthpiece properly.
Choosing a snoring mouthpiece is a matter of trial and error for most people. Everyone has different preferences and sleeping patterns, and something that works well for one person might not work well for you. Whichever mouthpiece you choose first, you should try it for at least a few weeks to give yourself time to adjust before making a judgment.
Devices We Recommend
If you have no idea where to begin looking for a snoring mouthpiece, here are some suggestions:
AirSnore Combo: The AirSnore Combo is a mandibular advancement device that comes with a special blend of essential oils that help relax your muscles, clear up congestion, and soothe your throat. Because mandibular advancement devices sometimes cause dry mouth and discomfort, the essential oils are a good way to compensate.
Good Morning Snore Solution: GMSS is one of the most popular tongue stabilizing devices on the market. It has excellent user reviews and is usually easier to adjust to than a mandibular advancement device.
VitalSleep: VitalSleep is a mandibular advancement device that lets you control exactly how much your lower jaw is held forward. You can gradually increase the advancement over time until you find the perfect setting.
SnoreMeds: The SnoreMeds mandibular advancement device uses boil and bite technology, so it’s one of the best products for a perfect custom fit. They offer two different sizes for smaller and larger jaws.