There are three different types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequently occurring type. A person who has obstructive sleep apnea experiences a narrowing or complete blockage of the airway meaning air cannot travel freely to and from the lungs during sleep. This can have very serious consequences for the person suffering, as well as causing a complete disruption to regular respiratory and sleeping cycles.
Central sleep apnea is caused by a lack of signals sent by the brain to the muscles that control breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. Unlike many other serious illnesses, there are a range of treatments for sleep apnea, ranging from changes in lifestyle all the way through to surgery.
For mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea, it may be recommended that an individual wear a mouthpiece to relieve the symptoms. If a case is more than moderately serious, it is likely that the mouthpiece will have little or no effect on relieving the individual of sleep apnea. It is also worth noting that a particularly mild case of sleep apnea may just need a change in lifestyle to relieve the symptoms. However, some people will be recommended to use a sleep apnea mouthpiece.
A mouthpiece basically works by preventing the blockage of the airway by the soft tissues surrounding it. By keeping the upper jaw slightly forward, this helps the airway to stay open allowing regular breathing during sleep. There are many different shapes and designs available on the market, although they mostly fall into two main categories: pre-made and custom made.
Pre-made mouthpieces are usually cheaper than custom made mouthpieces, and are easier to get hold of in a short space of time. They usually work by moulding to the mouth of the user after being placed in boiling water for a pre-determined period of time. This makes the mouthpiece more flexible and easier to fit in the mouth. However, it may take some time to find a pre-made sleep apnea mouthpiece that is suited to the individual and the shape of their mouth.
A custom-made mouthpiece is specifically made to fit the individual’s mouth, which may mean it is more comfortable for them to wear than a pre-made one. Sleep apnea mouthpieces are usually very effective in treating snoring. In fact, some people use these type of mouth pieces just to eliminate snoring, even if they have not got sleep apnea. Certain mouthpieces will control the positioning of the tongue, whereas others will control the positioning of the jaw. Some will control the position of both, to prevent any blockage of the airway by soft tissue.
- If a pre-made mouthpiece is used, it can be a fast and cost-effective method to alleviate a person of a case of mild sleep apnea.
- Usually results are very fast, particularly with reducing snoring.
- May allow sleeping partners to have a more peaceful sleep.
- Reduces the chances of developing other illnesses associated with sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure.
- Allows the individual who uses it to have a more peaceful and restful sleep.
- Any discomfort may only be mild and temporary.
- Discomfort in the jaw because some of the mouthpieces force movement of the jaw to help keep the airway open.
- Discomfort in the teeth due to the mouthpiece pushing on the teeth.
- Many users can expect to wake up to a very dry mouth.
- May cause excessive production of saliva if the mouthpiece presses against the saliva gland in the mouth.
- Sleep apnea mouthpieces that aren’t properly fitted can cause significant discomfort and may lead to misplacement of the jaw.