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How Effective Are Mouthguards in Treating Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people. It is characterized by periods of cessation in breathing throughout the night, often due to the muscles in the throat failing to relax and remain open. This can lead to several health complications including chronic fatigue, morning headaches, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. There are several treatments available for sleep apnea, including the use of mouthguards or dental devices. But how effective are mouthguards in treating sleep apnea?

What Are Mouthguards?

Mouthguards, also known as oral appliances or dental devices, are custom made or off-the-shelf devices that are designed to help keep the muscles of the throat open and prevent the airway from collapsing. To be effective, mouthguards need to fit snugly in the mouth and hold the lower jaw and tongue in a forward position.

Are Mouthguards Effective in Treating Sleep Apnea?

Mouthguards are often recommended as a less restrictive, more comfortable alternative to CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines for the treatment of mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. However, their effectiveness in treating sleep apnea is still a subject of debate.

Several studies have shown that mouthguards can be an effective treatment option for sleep apnea. One study found that the use of oral appliances significantly improved obstructive sleep apnea severity, and another study found that mouthguards improved sleep quality and reduced daytime sleepiness. In addition, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended the use of oral appliances as a treatment option for mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

However, there are also studies that have shown that mouthguards may not be as effective in treating sleep apnea as CPAP machines. One meta-analysis of 36 studies found that CPAP machines were significantly more effective than oral appliances in reducing sleep apnea severity.

Benefits of Using Mouthguards for Sleep Apnea

Despite the mixed evidence of their effectiveness in treating sleep apnea, there are several benefits to using mouthguards for the treatment of sleep apnea. Mouthguards are generally more comfortable and less obtrusive than CPAP machines, making them more likely to be used regularly. They are also easier for people to travel with and are less expensive than CPAP machines.

In addition, mouthguards can treat snoring, which is a common symptom of sleep apnea. Snoring is caused by the soft tissues in the throat vibrating as air passes through, and mouthguards can help to reduce the sound of snoring by keeping the muscles in the throat open and preventing airway obstruction.

What Are the Risks of Using Mouthguards for Sleep Apnea?

While the risks of using mouthguards for the treatment of sleep apnea are generally small, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of. Some people may experience jaw and tooth pain from the pressure of the device or some changes to the bite. In addition, mouthguards can sometimes cause salivation, mouth dryness, and increased gag reflexes. These side effects are usually mild and can be easily managed with adjustments to the device.

Conclusion

Mouthguards can be an effective treatment option for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea in some people. They are generally more comfortable and less obtrusive than CPAP machines and can be more easily traveled with. However, the evidence of their effectiveness in treating sleep apnea is still somewhat mixed. People with sleep apnea should always discuss treatment options with their doctor and be monitored closely to ensure that their treatment is effective.