Does The Mouthpiece for Snoring Really Work?

I am often asked the question, "Does the mouthpiece for snoring really work?" The best answer to that question is "it depends." The mouthpiece for snoring, technically referred to as an oral appliance, is considered an option for the treatment of snoring and mild to moderate sleep apnea.

Oral appliance therapy is a relatively newer form of treatment for snoring and sleep apnea, and thus there are few scientific studies on its effectiveness, side effects, and compliance. Oftentimes it is referred to as a "mouthpiece for snoring" although this is not a medical or scientific term. It is clear, based on medical research, that the oral appliance is not for everyone. It tends to be effective for treating sleep apnea only about 51% of the time (although some studies report slightly higher success rates). This is compared to success rates for CPAP which is almost always effective. Importantly, the oral appliance is generally not effective for severe sleep apnea.

Despite the less than perfect record in treating sleep apnea, oral appliances can often be helpful with snoring; thus the layman referring to it as a mouthpiece for snoring. They are also initially easier to tolerate than CPAP.

In patients with snoring, I first determine whether they have sleep apnea by doing a sleep study. If sleep apnea is present, then I usually start with the gold standard - CPAP. I leave oral appliance as a second or third option. However, if no sleep apnea is present, then the mouthpiece for snoring is a perfectly reasonable option.

There are usually minimal side effects associated with using the oral appliance. Common side effects include dry mouth, tooth discomfort, excessive drooling, and jaw pain. It is uncommon to have TMJ problems unless there are preexisting TMJ problems. It is also important to realize that a percentage of patients (in one study 14%) who actually have a worsening of their sleep apnea when using the mouthpiece for snoring.

So if you are interested in using a mouthpiece for snoring, you should first see a sleep physician who will more than likely order a sleep study to determine whether you have sleep apnea. If sleep apnea is present, then the oral appliance is an option if your sleep apnea is not severe, however it is best to give the gold standard therapy, CPAP, a try. If you just have simple snoring, then the mouthpiece for snoring is a perfectly reasonable option. You should ask your sleep physician for a referral to a dentist who is skilled at using oral appliance, if you decide to go this route.

Disclaimer: As with all the content on this site, this article is to be viewed as educational only. In no way should this be construed as medical advice. If you are concerned that you might have a sleep disorder, make an appointment with a sleep physician for proper advice.