Types of OTC oral appliances for snoring
There are literally dozens of over-the-counter (OTC) mandibular advancement devices (MAD) available, which means that making a decision can be anything but easy. One should consider several factors before making such an important decision. After all, an oral appliance is a medical device that is used to treat conditions such as snoring and sleep apnea; so naturally you should desire what is best for your health.
Over-the-counter mouthpieces are available in a variety of designs from the simple boil and bite units to more complex models which allow you to create an impression using dental clay and then have a custom piece created at a lab. Then there are Tongue Stabilizing devices (TSD) which attach to the end of your tongue, preventing it from falling into the back of your throat. Finally, there are more complex devices which use both mandibular advancement and a tongue stabilizing device. Such mouthpieces have proven to be effective in many cases of snoring and sleep apnea. Here is a bit more information on each of these devices and a few reasons why you may want to choose them.
Boil and bite mouthpieces
By far, boil and bite mandibular advancement devices have dominated the market over the years. They are constructed from a unique type of thermoplastic material that becomes moldable when heated in hot or boiling hot water. This type of device typically comes pre-shaped to fit closely around your teeth. Once exposed to hot water for the specified amount of time, the user inserts the device into their mouth and bites down while moving their lower jaw forward. This position is held for up to one minute before the unit is removed and cooled, typically using a bowl of iced water.
Thermoplastic devices are often criticized due to their bulky nature. Some models are intrusive and uncomfortable while others are bearable and can be tolerated by the user. They are often almost twice the thickness of the more expensive OTC devices and can cause excessive drooling and dry mouth in some cases. Some have issues with these types of mouthpieces while others do not.
Some OTC oral appliances come with holes which allow for breathing while others do not. Breathing holes are generally considered a good feature to have while some prefer to have no holes due to issues dry throat issues. This sometimes occurs because a concentrated stream of air that constantly enters and exits your airway and dries out the saliva in the mouth.
One desirable feature that is not so commonly found is the ability to make advancement adjustments. Being able to adjust the jaw position forward 1 mm at a time enables one to find a desirable position which is comfortable yet still effective. With most devices, once the molding process has been completed, making adjustments can be difficult if not impossible. This means that one must locate the ideal position during the first fitting or they will end up with a piece that is unusable.
Boil and bite devices are typically the least expensive type of OTC mandibular advancement devices available, costing anywhere from $35 to $60 including shipping. The length of time that they last depends on how they were manufactured. In general, most last between 6 months and 24 months. Boil and bite devices are often used by those who are interested in testing the waters to see if a MAD will be an effective solution. If proven successful, many eventually choose to move up into a better constructed and more expensive unit.
If you are considering purchasing a boil and bite mouthpiece, be sure to carefully examine the manufactures sales page for these potential pitfalls before making a product selection.
Laboratory created OTC oral appliances
Some find that a better solution is the lab created OTC mouthpiece. These types of devices are typically more expensive than their boil and bite counterparts with an average selling price of $120 to $200.
While they still work exactly the same as the boil and bite types, a custom created mold allows them to fit much better in the mouth. When ordered, a custom impression kit is sent to your home which contains 2 dental trays and impression clay among other items. The impression clay is loaded into the trays and then inserted into the mouth where the person gently bites down and releases. After creating the impression, the tray is removed from the mouth and then placed into a shipping container where it is then sent off to a laboratory where it will be created. Within a couple weeks it is returned to your home and should be ready to use.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of this type of oral appliance is a closer, less intrusive fit. In comparison to the standard boil and bite model, these take up much less room in the mouth and overall are not nearly as bulky.
In some cases they can be adjusted while in other cases they remain in a fixed position.
Tongue stabilizing devices
A newer type of mouthpiece that is gaining momentum is the tongue stabilizing device (TSD). While far less popular than the mandibular advancement device, the TSD is making big strides and gaining market share.
Technically speaking, the TSD is not a mouthpiece in a traditional sense. It resembles a pacifier and actually attaches to the end of your tongue using the power of suction and rests between the lips and outer teeth. This device works by holding your tongue forward as you sleep to prevent the tongue from falling to the back of the throat and causing an obstruction in the airway.
Good Morning Snore Solution currently markets and sells an OTC version of this mouthpiece which can be purchased for around $120 including shipping.
Hybrid mouth guard
Recently, Zyppah has created a unique hybrid B&B device that also contains a tongue stabilizing strap which stretches from one side of the tongue to the other and is used to hold the tongue in place. These types of MADs provide both jaw advancement and tongue stabilization.
It works like any other MAD by holding the lower jaw in the forward position in order to prevent tissues form obstructing the airway. The stabilizing strap is an additional measure that is used to keep the tongue from relaxing and migrating towards the back of the throat.
Which type is most effective?
When it comes to snoring prevention, all four types of mouthpieces have been proven to be effective. While choosing a snoring treatment, consider which type will be the most comfortable for you and weight this against the total price of each device. Boil and bite devices are the most affordable yet some find them to be uncomfortable. Laboratory molded devices along with TSDs offer a more comfortable solution yet can cost more than twice as much as other alternatives.
OTC mouth guards can be a less costly alternative when compared to more expensive devices that are custom made by your dentist. As always, please speak with your doctor before using any oral appliance to treat snoring.
Robert Thomas is an expert writer and reviewer for http://www.snoringmouthpieceguide.com. He writes on topics such as snoring, sleep apnea, CPAP treatment, Mandibular Advancement Devices, and natural snoring therapy.