There are plenty of products on the market that promise to stop snoring. A tour of the Internet will quickly reveal sprays, strips and lotions that promise to end the buzz-saw sound that emanates from millions of mouths every night.  Unfortunately, most of these items fail to deliver as promised.  However, one device that has a strong track record of restoring quiet to the bedroom is an anti-snoring mouthpiece.

Known to doctors as a mandibular advancement splint (MAS) or simply a mandibular splint, an anti-snoring mouthpiece treats snoring and sleep apnea by pushing the lower jaw forward slightly.  That in turn tightens the soft tissues inside the throat, preventing the airway from being obstructed during sleep.  This same tightening also keeps the upper airway tissues from vibrating as air passes over them.

Types of Mouthpieces
These devices fall into two general categories.  One kind can be bought over the counter at drug or department stores or on the Internet. In both design and function, they’re very much like the mouth guards worn by teenage football players, boxers, and other athletes who frequently come into hard contact with competitors.

These are commonly called “boil and bite” mouthpieces because of the way that they are custom-fitted to the user’s mouth.  They’re dropped into boiling water that softens the plastic material.  Then, after partially cooling, the person puts it in his or her mouth and pushes the lower jaw forward, holding it in place until the material hardens.  When worn at night, it keeps the airway open.

The other type is made by a dentist, who custom-fits the device to the patient’s mouth.  In general, these offer advantages over the ones bought without a prescription.  They fit the user’s mouth better, allow freer breathing, and in many cases, do a better job of treating the underlying condition.  The primary drawback is the cost involved.  For those lacking dental insurance, out-of-pocket costs can run as high as $2,000, although this can vary widely, depending on the individual dental practice and its particular fee structure.

What Studies Show
Researchers have conducted several studies over the last ten years to determine the effectiveness of MAS mouthpieces.  One study conducted by Dr. Edmund Rose of the University of Freiburg in 2004 showed a success rate of 88% in improving the symptoms of sleep apnea patients who wore MAS devices during a trial period.  The participants showed greater daytime wakefulness, reductions in high blood pressure, improved memory function and alertness, and other positive results.

These findings were reinforced by a follow-up study in 2008, as well as several others.  In particular, the anti-snoring mouthpieces are increasingly being used in the US, Canada and Europe as a less invasive, lower-cost alternative to the most common treatment for snoring and sleep apnea: the CPAP machine.  Overall results show that the two approaches are equally beneficial to patients.

Problems
An MAS mouthpiece isn’t a perfect solution to obstructive breathing issues. One commonly reported problem is discomfort in the jaw, especially upon wakening after a night of wearing one.  Doctors recommend a series of mouth exercises to deal with the stiffness that causes this.

Also, many patients report a buildup of saliva during sleep that frequently runs out of the mouth and onto their pillow or bedclothes.  Some have tried wearing a CPAP-style mouth cuff to prevent this.  However, this leaves the nostrils as their only way to breathe, which can actually contribute to sleep issues if the patient suffers from clogged sinuses.

One other potential drawback is long-term damage to the teeth from wearing an MAS device for several months or years. Any who use these mouthpieces regularly should get regular dental checkups as well.

Of course, without a comfortable, supportive mattress, even the best anti-snoring mouthpiece can’t offer much help.  That’s why we at Parklane Mattresses will be happy to match you with the ideal sleep surface for your particular needs.  Check out our sleep solutions, and let us know if you have any questions.  We want your sleep time to be everything it’s supposed to be.