Whenever trying something new in relation to healthcare or pharmaceutical products, consideration must always be given to the safety aspect of the product. This can be both in relation to pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices.
Often both of these contain side effects that can cause more damage than the condition that it is trying to correct. The same can be said for mouthguards used to prevent snoring.
Anti-snoring mouthpieces of the MAD and TSD variety have become particularly popular in the last twenty years or so but are both still considered Class II Medical Devices by the FDA. A Class II Medical Device requires a prescription and, while you can obtain these devices online without a prescription through legal loopholes, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are without their dangers.
When the FDA classifies a product as a Class II Medical Device, it is generally for good reason. A prescription is required because it is deemed that professional medical advice should be given to the patient in order to attain one. The reason for this is that, under certain circumstances, the medical device can cause more harm than good to the user.
So Are They Dangerous?
This really depends on the reason that you are snoring. While some people snore without having an underlying medical condition, others snore as a result of a medical condition known as sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a common medical condition that manifests itself by shallowness in breath or pauses while breathing during sleep. When this breathing is paused, oxygen is unable to enter the bloodstream causing carbon dioxide to build in the bloodstream.
The brain acknowledges this build up of carbon dioxide and tells the body to wake up in order to get oxygen. The individual with the medical condition then wakes up and breathes normally again. Unfortunately, a person with sleep apnea, even though they have an inability to breathe properly while sleeping, will rarely notice these events occurring and so are often unaware that they even have this condition.
Some common symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS)
- Impaired Alertness
- Vision Problems
- Slower Reaction Times
There are two different types of sleep apnea. These are Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). CSA involves the disruption of signals in the brain regarding the detection of levels of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream that results in telling the lungs to breathe (or not as the case may be). This leads to pauses in breathing while sleeping. CSA, while significantly less common than OSA, is a very dangerous and serious medical condition. Due to the brain requiring oxygen to function, when the blood oxygen levels get low enough for a long enough period of time, this can cause brain damage and, in extreme cases, even death.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a far more common and less dangerous type of sleep apnea. The pauses in breathing are due to an obstruction in the airways to the lungs and are usually caused by collapsible walls made of soft tissue that are in the lining of the throat. This soft tissue is what vibrates against the muscle tissue in the throat that can cause snoring.
So, how can you tell if you have sleep apnea or you are just a snorer? This is something that is best left to medical professionals to determine. Often times when you go to research medical conditions online, you can end up diagnosing yourself with something that you simply do not have. Doctors go to University for more than 5 years for a reason. Medical conditions are intrinsically difficult to comprehend and identify due to their complex nature and wide variety. Before drawing your own conclusion from a symptoms list, consult your doctor on the issue.
Can Mouthguards Help With Sleep Apnea?
In general, anti-snoring they will not help with sleep apnea. They are designed for the people who simply snore with no underlying medical condition. That is not to say that they have never worked for people with sleep apnea, but simply that they aren’t designed for these people.
There are devices known as CPAP machines that can be used to far greater effect in dealing with sleep apnea. They operate by pressurizing the users’ airways to allow unobstructed breathing.
Are Mouthguards Dangerous to Users Without Sleep Apnea?
With most Class II Medical Devices, there comes a list of potential harms and side effects. This is also the case for devices designed to stop snoring. The following are a set of potential side effects and harms associated with the use of mouthguards to prevent snoring:
- Pain in the Teeth and Gums – This is most often an issue if the device has not been fitted correctly by a professional. The plastic can dig into the gum tissue or firmly against the teeth and cause discomfort to the user and in some cases even bleeding. Having a specialist fit the mouthpiece to your mouth can mitigate this risk.
- Change of Bite – The device operate on the principle of advancing the lower jaw forward to tighten the muscles in the throat. When forcing the lower jaw forward, a common side effect is a permanent/semi-permanent (depending on the duration of use) change to a persons’ bite. In simpler terms, this means that the lower set of teeth may become permanently pushed slightly forward altering the interactions between the top and bottom sets of teeth. This can feel strange and slightly uncomfortable for the individual.
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder – As a result of the lower jaw being forced forward, shifting of and pain in the jaw joints can occur. The pain from this disorder can not only be felt in the jaw joint, but also in the ear and teeth. The causes of TMJ disorder other than the lower jaw being forced forward are; bruxism, joint dislocation and cartilage wear and tear. This condition can have a severe impact on a person’s life and so it is advisable to seek medical advice from a dentist or doctor before trying an oral appliance.
- Sleep Bruxism – this is where the user grinds their teeth while they are sleeping. This can lead to TMJ disorder and can cause damage to the teeth through attrition. While mouthguards designed to prevent snoring will prevent you grinding your teeth, it has been noted that they can sometimes increase the likelihood of teeth grinding.
It is important to realize that just because the above effects can happen, doesn’t mean that they will. If you suffer from snoring and would like to seek a solution, engage a professional in the industry. This way, you can ensure that any risks of side effects can be mitigated.
So You Want A Snore Solution?
After consulting a doctor you may be wondering what type of device you should purchase to help with your snoring. Below I have provided my most highly recommended device and a cost-effective alternative. These are both sure to help the user deal with the snoring problems.
Good Morning Snore Solution (GMSS)
GMSS is a Tongue Stabilizing Device (TSD). While still a mouthpiece, the way in which it functions is fundamentally different to the Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD). The MAD type mouthpieces operate by advancing the lower jaw forward and are rather intrusive on the mouth.
The TSD style devices operate by holding your tongue in a more forward position thus eliminating the chance of your tongue falling back and blocking the airways. The soft tissue at the back of the tongue vibrating against the throat muscles often causes snoring. This can be rectified by reducing the contact between the soft tissue of the tongue and the back of the throat.
A full review of the GMSS can be found here.
Vitalsleep is a MAD type device and is a cost-effective alternative to the GMSS. For those of you who feel confident in using a device that alters the position of your lower jaw and are tight on cash, this is a very effective product providing value for money.
A full review of Vitalseep can be found here.
An important thing to realize about oral appliances to prevent snoring is that the vast majority of the devices on the market will be effective in stopping snoring. The areas that they vary the most in are durability, comfort and easy-of-use. In my own personal opinion, GMSS is my favorite device to stop snoring. It is very comfortable and took a very short time for me to get used to. Having said that, Vitalsleep is definitely a good, cost effective alternative.
If I were to recommend one over the other I would have to say, I would advise the GMSS. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- People with dentures, caps, crowns and bridges can wear this product. With MAD devices, the user is required to bite down on the mouthpiece to hold it in place. This is not the case with TSD type appliances.
- This device is particularly comfortable to wear, as it doesn’t sit inside your mouth so you don’t have to get used to something sitting in your mouth while you are sleeping.
- Since it doesn’t rest on your teeth, you don’t need to worry about it fitting perfectly. Furthermore, it doesn’t cause or worsen Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder so it is less dangerous than the MAD devices.
Don’t be put off by the idea of devices that prevent snoring just because they have side effects and health risks. Every medical product comes with its fair share of health risks and side effects. When used appropriately, they can really help to make a positive change in peoples lives. The key thing to note is that they should be treated as a medical device.
Speak to your doctor or dentist to ensure that you aren’t suffering from sleep apnea. If you are simply a snorer who has no underlying medical condition, mouthguards to prevent snoring may be the perfect product for you. Snoring can be a real nuisance that we could all do without, so be proactive and go out and try to solve your snoring problem.
Which Product Should I Choose?
Every person has a unique mouth and needs, so one that is perfect for one person may not be the best option for another.
There are well over 100 products on the market, so making a decision can be quite daunting.
You will find a lot of helpful information in the comparison chart, and I have written reviews of several products.
If you would rather not spend a lot of time reading reviews, please consult my article titled “My Mouthpiece Recommendation”. I have compiled a list of three products that I believe are the best options, based on my experience.